Friday, June 27, 2008

We've Got a Lot of What It Takes to Get Along

Dear God,

Entergy's valuation as a company has always reminded me more of the housing market than the stock market, and this week it's seeming like I'm right, as usual. Stocks go up and down, but home prices climbed for 13 years straight on a steep, dizzying slope. By the time 10 years were up they had doubled, and the climb just continued. No one ever recognized that houses could become devalued.

What could be more solid than Entergy, a company that produces energy that is "safe, clean, and reliable?" (Please follow that link and learn more about that.) Nothing! That's why CEO J. Wayne Leonard's income is climbing; he made $14.8 million in 2006 and $26.2 million during 2007. Over this last 52-week period, Entergy share prices were up 14%.

But now the bubble has burst, or at least some stinky gas is beginning to seep out. Entergy's stock price fell 3.2% in one afternoon this week alone. This was after the Banc of America downgraded Entergy's "buy" classification to "neutral," expressing concern about the effect that political resistance to Entergy's spin-off, Enexus, will have on Enexus' debt burden.

In a statement, Banc of America said, "In our view, the stock price is not discounting the regulatory risks enough."

They'd like to see better risk management. As would the activists, though their concerns about risk aren't limited to money, and we make a practice of not listening to them. But what does "risk" mean, anyway? It's just the chance of being wrong. And being wrong about money and, indeed, wrong about safety has always worked to our advantage before.

So why isn't our regular approach to truth vs. reality working for us anymore, Lord? Is the world at large about to stop buying our lies? Do we have a Plan B, Lord? Do you?



The Hamburger Summit

Dear God,

I'm just writing to say that I am ACHING to go to Philip Baruth's Third Annual Political Barbeque and Hamburger Summit but can't figure out a way to do that anonymously. And if I try to just go as a guy who likes to hang out with bloggers (how creepy is that idea?), I will be up against my annoying stress response. Which is this: I laugh helplessly until I can't talk--can't even tell a simple blonde joke. And then when I lie there in a puddle of my own sweat and tears, everyone will say, "Hmm. Must be Fake-Rob. Still thinks he's funny, does he?

Beer? Really? And hamburgers? Damn!

Can you perform some kind of miracle, Lord?


PS: Anyway, I encourage everyone who CAN go to go. It's Saturday June 28 from 1-5 at North Beach in Burlington. Better directions are here.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

How Do You Spell "Safe, Clean, and Reliable?"

Dear God,

The New York Times has reported that New Flavors of Web Addresses Are Near." The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers has voted unanimously to permit the introduction of Internet addresses that go beyond ".com" and ".org" and all the way to ".sports" for (you've got it) sports or ".xxx" for porn.

Yipeeeeee! as we say here at Vermont Yankee when we're trying to sound harmless. We've been so lucky with our web address. And now we can move on to:

  • safecleanreliable.lies,
  • safecleanreliable.inadequate_decommissioning_fund,
  • safecleanreliable.old_plant_and_new_stresses,
  • safecleanreliable.hotter_and_longer_bad_idea,
  • safecleanreliable.disaster_waiting_to_happen,
  • safecleanreliable.$_for_legal_assaults_on_truth,
  • and more.

I'm working on some press releases and some new stationary, God. I'll get back to you soon to get your opinion.

But wait! Does anyone out there have any more ideas? Add them as comments to this post! I'm sure God is listening.



Monday, June 23, 2008

Vote for Me!

Dear Lord,

If you like these prayers I've been sending your way, please click over to the site of the Daysies and vote for this prayer blog as your favorite political blog from Vermont. When you fill in the survey, specify (Which is to say, don't specify "Are You There, God? It's Me, Fake-Rob Williams.") Also remember to fill in answers for at least 1/3 of the questions or your vote won't count.

It's a lot to remember. But you'd do it for me, Lord, wouldn't you? You only have a few days to vote, so DO IT NOW!



Thursday, June 19, 2008

What Happens in Vernon Stays in Vernon

Dear God,

Wackenhut, the Vermont Yankee security contractor, had a little trouble this week down in Bridgman, Michigan. Apparently, three Wackenhut guards, along with three employees of the nuclear power plant they were guarding, were caught being "inattentive" and using a security camera "inappropriately." You gotta wonder what all that's a euphemism for, don't you Lord? It's a shame that it made the papers, but thank goodness both Wackenhut Corporate and American Electric Power Co., owner of the Cook Nuclear Plant, have been discrete.

Do you think we could be as discreet here in Vermont if our employees got caught mooning the security cameras? I sure hope that we here at Vermont Yankee consistently hire the sort of employee who could help avert butt-related PR disasters. Wackenhut may be hiring here soon, and to help them make sure that they hire the very best of the best, I've devised an online application for them to use with prospective hires. With the online application, applicants can take a test to see if they are generally able to stay awake and use their guns.

Here's the online application. It's a force-on-force test, far easier than the force-on-force test Wackenhut and Vermont Yankee may recently have together failed. There's only one problem with this test from my point of view: It doesn't include a way to measure an applicant's ability to keep stories like a mooning incident away from the press. So let me title this test with a reminder about the importance of not telling tales out of school. Let's call this test:

What Happens in Vernon Stays in Vernon

Please, Lord, tell everyone you know about it!



Friday, June 13, 2008

Bigger Boobs

Dear God,

Just in case you're wondering, here is a metaphor for how it's been going here, politically, between Entergy and the once-trusting Vermonters. It's kind of an offensive metaphor (it's a blonde joke; what do you expect?), but it's not all that offensive if you swap in the word "Entergy" wherever you see "lawyer" and the phrase "Trusting Vermonter" wherever you see "blonde." Also, replace "play a game of intelligence" with "play a game of chicken regarding the decommissioning fund and relicensing application."

A blonde and a lawyer are on an airplane. The lawyer invites the blonde to play a game of intelligence. He offers her 10 to 1 odds, saying that every time the blonde can't answer one of his questions, she'll only have to give him $5. But every time he can't answer one of hers, he'll have to give her $50.00. The lawyer figures he can't lose, she's so dumb and trusting.

The lawyer goes first. He asks, "What is the distance between the Earth and the nearest star?"

Without saying a word the blonde hands him $5. Then she asks, "What goes up a hill with 3 legs and comes back down the hill with 4 legs?"

Well, the lawyer looks puzzled. He takes several hours, looking up everything he can on his laptop and even placing air-to-ground phone calls trying to find the answer. Finally, angry and frustrated, he gives up and pays the blonde $50.00

The blonde puts the $50 into her purse without comment, but the lawyer insists, "What is the answer to your question?"

Without saying a word, the blonde hands him $5.

I don't know, Lord. I told you, it's a metaphor! How specific do you want me to get, anyway? But I guess what I could say by way of explanation, God, is that my sense of things is that Trusting Vermonters are still ahead in this game of chicken, but only because they've got bigger boobs.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Actually, Lord, that's not funny unless I change it to "they've been bigger boobs, and it may really be too awful politically (nationally) for Entergy to move ahead with the tactics they've been using. That's why the Trusting Vermonters may still be ahead.

Ok. My explanation stepped on that joke.



PS: Is gloating sinful?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Off the Hook!

Holy, cow, God!

Do you read the Keene Sentinel? Did you see yesterday's article? It is about all of that confusion over who owns Vermont Yankee and who will be responsible for the decommissioning costs.

Apparently, the press releases issued by Entergy a few years back (you know; the ones that offered assurances that it owns Vermont Yankee and will be responsible for dismantling and decommissioning) were not the only information that caused reasonable people to believe that Entergy owns Vermont Yankee and will be responsible for ... (I take it you know where the rest of that sentence is headed). Because Entergy also claimed the plant as an asset and claimed the decommissioning costs as a liability in its 2004 SEC filings. The Sentinel specifically says that those SEC filings are "heavily lawyered."

Whoooooieeeeee! And that, Lord, can only mean that this whole fiasco is not the fault of anyone in the PR department!!!!!

Let me quote directly from the Keene Sentinel:

Here’s Note No. 13 in Entergy Corp.’s 10-K filing for 2004 in which it reviews its $180 million purchase of Vermont Yankee:

"Entergy received the plant, nuclear fuel, inventories, and related real estate. The liability to decommission the plant, as well as related decommissioning trust funds of approximately $310 million, was also transferred to Entergy."

There’s similar language in Entergy’s other 10-K filings for prior and subsequent years. The message is pretty clear: Putting aside what the company’s press office was telling the public, Entergy’s lawyers told shareholders that Entergy Corp. owned Vermont Yankee and was assuming the responsibility for covering the decommissioning costs for the power generating enterprise.

There’s no question about who bought Vermont Yankee. And there should be no question about who’s responsible for covering the costs of shutting the place down when that time comes.

Damn! Whoever wrote that is good! Well, that takes a load of my conscience--and I can only suppose that my phone is about to stop ringing over the insanity of all this and the legal department's phone will commence to keen. In celebration, I do believe I'll have one of those funny brownies that the control room operators love so much.

Thanks, Lord, for another in a series of unbelievable lucky brakes.



Monday, June 9, 2008

When Pigs Can Fly

Dear God,

I don't mean to sound pedestrian, but do you know the phrase, "When Pigs Can Fly?" It's urban speak for "not likely."

For example (and I'm quoting from Urban Dictionary):

Guy: Hey, sexy, you me lunch?
Girl: When pigs can fly.


Trusting Vermonter: Mr. Williams, do you think we'll get any help from Entergy on our decommissioning fund?
Me: When pigs can fly.

And so, to drive home that point that Entergy absolutely has no intention of living up to its promises to Vermonters to be financially responsible for nuclear accidents and for all decommissioning costs, I've posted this cute little game. It works! Really! And It's fun! Tell everyone, Lord!



Friday, June 6, 2008

It's Not Easy Bein' Greedy

Dear God,

Help me think this through.

Entergy wants to sell Vermont Yankee and five other plants to a newly created company called Enexus. But there are grave concerns about the adequacy of the decommissioning fund. To be specific, it seems to be about $375 million short. So the legislature passed a bill directing the Department of Public Service to require Entergy to top off the fund before DPS endorses the sale of Vermont Yankee and the other plants to the new company. That's the bill that Governor Douglas recently vetoed.

In the midst of all of that, the chief financial officer of Entergy Nuclear (the subsidiary that owns Vermont Yankee) told the House Commerce Committee on April 16 that the Entergy parent company--the very company that made all sorts of assurances to Vermonters that it would handle decommissioning costs--has no obligation whatsoever for decommissioning costs. Apparently, Entergy Nuclear is even claiming that the parent company has no financial obligations whasoever regarding Vermont Yankee.

You'd think that would piss off the Department of Public Service to no end. So why is Entergy Nuclear being so in-your-face about this whole matter, especially given the fact that the DPS must renew the plant's operating license for another 20 years or the plant will need to shut down in 2012?

I tell you, Lord. I have thought and thought and thought about this, and three thoughts in a row are a whole lot for me. What I think I've come up with is this.

First, Entergy Père (I knew my grade school French would come in handy one day) is trying to wash its hands of Vermont Yankee, and it is using Entergy Nuclear to deliver the message. Entergy Père wants to be out of the picture well before DPS decides on the sale of the plant to Enexus because, if it's only relatively impoverished Entergy Nuclear that owns the plant now, there will be no reason for the DPS to stand in the way of the sale.

Second, Entergy Père is banking on the idea (hey, don't you just love those double entendres?) that the DPS will be scared shitless by its claim to have no financial responsibility for Vermont Yankee. Because Entergy Père is an $11 billion dollar company that could really help out in case of emergency. Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee, on the other hand, owns one dilapidated reactor and the land it sits on. So this sudden public claim to bear no responsibility may be a ruse. Entergy may be trying to intimidate the DPS into bargaining with it.

Where once Entergy Père had insinuated, "If you don't endorse the extension, we'll be forced to close down and you'll have a toxic waste dump on your hands for 60 years while that fund matures," soon it may make an offer that it hopes the DPS can't refuse. (And, Lord, when you read what follows in quotes, please imagine the words said in an unctuous, friendly voice.)

If the DPS endorses the license renewal and the sale to Enexus, Entergy will agree to financially support the plant through emergencies and decommissioning, as originally promised. If it doesn't, gee, we hope nothing bad happens at the plant between now and 2012, because those kinds of accidents are not accidents that the state of Vermont can afford to take on.

Tony Soprano could not say it better.

Neither, for that matter, could Kermit the Frog. But if he tried, he might say it like this:

It's not easy bein' greedy.
It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary thugs.
And people tend to pass you over 'cause you've hurt their children with poison sparkles in the water, though not the stars in the sky.

But greedy's the color of success.
And greedy pays lobbyists' salaries.
And greedy can be big like an ocean, like J. Wayne Leonard's salary at more than $100,721 a day [in 2007, according to Entergy's proxy statement]….

When greedy is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why, but why wonder why? Wonder,
I am greedy and it'll do fine, it's beautiful!
And I think it's what I want to be.



Thursday, June 5, 2008

I Did Not Have Sex with That Woman

Dear God,

Years from now, when people look back on my tenure in this PR department, they may consider my defining moment to be how I react to today's news.

And the news is this: A few Entergy press releases from 2001 and 2002 were found. This was during the time when Entergy was trying to buy Vermont Yankee. Those news releases assured Vermonters that Entergy would be responsible for all costs related to plant decommissioning.

Aug. 15, 2001, announcing Entergy's plan to buy Vermont Yankee: "Entergy will also assume decommissioning liability for the plant and the plant's decommissioning trust fund, which is required by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission."

Feb. 25, 2002: "Entergy will assume all financial and operational risks of increases in operating and fuel costs, decommissioning costs, used fuel costs, nuclear waste disposal costs, costs of any accidents at VY or other nuclear plants in the U.S., costs of premature shutdowns and extended outages."

The July 18, 2002 press release is kind of tricky. It's not one in which Entergy assures Vermonters it will pay. Instead, in it Entergy demands the right to reap at least half the benefit of any overages it pays into the fund. It said, "Entergy believes that it is fundamentally inequitable for it to bear all of the downside decommissioning fund risk without the potential to share in the upside if funding levels or actual decommissioning costs turn out better than expected."

So why is this news? Because now Entergy says that it doesn't even own Vermont Yankee--that its subsidiary, Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee, does--and so, it claims, Entergy has no liability in the matter. The decommissioning fund is not its problem at all, despite the assurances it gave.

A few people started getting upset about this back in April, when concerns about a shorfall of several hundred million dollars in the decommissioning fund were swelling. At that time, Entergy Nuclear vice president Wanda Curry, in testimony to the House Commerce Committee, said, "The responsibility for decommissioning Vermont Yankee is with its owner… Its owner is Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee. Its owner is not Entergy." [I added the bold.]

Lord, with the newspapers wagging those actual press releases all over the place, some Vermonters are howlingly mad, and some feel that way about me personally right now. But, Lord, I don't think I even wrote those old press releases. Oh, well. I am the one who is going to have to defend them.

Should I quit in disgust (at mendacity) and fear (of what this will do to my reputation in the community)? I am disgusted, Lord, and I am afraid. Or should I imitate Bill Clinton? You remember The Starr Report, right? It quoted Bill Clinton as responding to a question of whether he lied when he told his top aides, with respect to Monica Lewinsky, "there's nothing going on between us."

"It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is. If the--if he--if 'is' means is and never has been, that is not--that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement... Now, if someone had asked me on that day, are you having any kind of sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky, that is, asked me a question in the present tense, I would have said no. And it would have been completely true."

They didn't call him "Slick Willie" for nothing.

Anyway, the statement I gave to the Associated Press in response to this press release mess has not been perceived as helpful. So let me try a "Slick Willie" in the context of today's situation.

Why did our press releases say "Entergy" when we didn't mean "Entergy?" It depends on what the meaning of the word "Entergy" is. If the--if it--if "Entergy" means there is none, that was a completely true statement... Now, if someone had asked me on that day, are you having any kind of Entergy with Ms. Lewinsky, that is, asked me a question in the present tense, I would have said no. And it would have been completely true."

Oh, hell, God. That's even worse than what I actually said to the Associated Press about we "should have been more precise" and we didn't intend "to convey anything other than the facts...." And without the luxury of plagiary, I fear I will be speechless, literally. There is no precedent that I know of for making light of a shortfall of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Wait a minute. Of course there is precedent. I'll go to Halliburton's web site. Surely there's guidance there.

Anyway, God, it's going to be a tough few weeks around here, and I hope you'll stick with me. Without your guidance, I won't be able to handle everything as well as Bill Clinton handled his grand jury. Anyway, about one thing I can be perfectly clear:

I did not have sex with that woman.