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Major changes to Pilgrim nuclear panel proposed in new legislation

Rep. Mathew Muratore, a Plymouth Republican, and Rep. Kathleen LaNatra, a Democrat whose district includes Plymouth, spoke at Monday's NDCAP meeting to explain the bill.
Image from Zoom via Plymouth Area Community Access Television
Rep. Mathew Muratore, a Plymouth Republican, and Rep. Kathleen LaNatra, a Democrat whose district includes Plymouth, spoke at Monday's NDCAP meeting to explain the bill.

A new bill filed in the state Legislature would make significant changes to the public panel on the decommissioning of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station.

The bill would shrink the panel from 21 to 15 members, give state officials a bigger role, and change the composition of the group. One change would add a member focused on future economic development of the Plymouth property.

Plymouth legislators are sponsoring the measure.

It would also change the name of the group, from Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel to Pilgrim Decommissioning State Oversight Panel, and reduce the frequency of meetings.

Some members of the group say the change would result in less influence from members of the public.

“Citizens like myself will have no place on such a panel,” member Henrietta Cosentino said Monday at the group’s regular meeting. “And that concerns me, because citizens have had a hard time really being fully heard, even in the panel as it is currently constituted.”

The prime sponsor, Rep. Mathew Muratore, a Plymouth Republican, and co-sponsor Rep. Kathleen LaNatra, a Democrat, spoke at the meeting to explain the bill. LaNatra’s district covers parts of six towns, including Plymouth.

“This legislation gives the state a more active role in running the panel,” Muratore said, “to both provide awareness of the compliance of the agreements, ensure the correct technical knowledge is impaneled on the group, as well as prepare the community for the eventual redevelopment of the site.”

The bill would add a representative of the Plymouth Regional Economic Development Foundation. It would also add a position for the governor’s staff, but remove other members appointed by the governor.

Notably, that would eliminate a recent and vocal appointee, Andrew Gottlieb, executive director of the Association to Preserve Cape Cod. His organization has hired a Boston law firm to go to court, if necessary, to stop Pilgrim owner Holtec from releasing about a million gallons of radioactive water into Cape Cod Bay.

The bill has a long way to go before it could pass; Muratore said legislative committees will probably be formed in March for the new legislative session.

In other news of the Pilgrim decommissioning, state officials from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Department of Public Health visited the plant on Thursday to view areas where water samples will be drawn for testing, according to Seth Pickering, a deputy regional director at DEP.

He said sample collection will occur at three locations: the spent-fuel pool, the dryer/separator pit, and the torus.

“Holtec has provided a draft sampling protocol … and the protocol will be finalized before the actual sampling events take place,” he said.

DEP has identified a lab in Colorado, called Eurofins, to test for non-radioactive pollutants.

Pickering also said the Office of Coastal Zone Management and Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs are examining how the Ocean Sanctuaries Act could apply to the potential discharge of radioactive water from Pilgrim.

Concerned residents hope the law could be used to block the release of water into Cape Cod Bay.

Jennette Barnes is a reporter and producer. Named a Master Reporter by the New England Society of News Editors, she brings more than 20 years of news experience to CAI.