Friday, March 5, 2010

Desperation for good jobs in rural Vermont

Read Katie Zezima's story in yesterday's New York Times about Vernon, Vermont, population 2,141, where many residents are upset at the state's decision to close Vermont Yankee, the state's only nuclear power plant. Indeed, they are upset and generally opposed to the closure in spite of a known leak of radioactive tritium from it. The primary reason for their upset: anticipated loss of the 650 jobs that accompany the power plant, including many skilled and high paying jobs. An excerpt from Zezima's story follows.
Vermont would lose the source of one-third of its electricity, but residents say the move would forever change Vernon, the small town on the Connecticut River that has been the reactor’s home for 38 years.

“It will ruin this town,” said Robert Miller, 49, who works in an auto body shop and serves on the Vernon Selectboard.

The reactor is the area’s largest source of high-paying jobs — the average worker makes $100,000 with benefits, according to the Entergy Corporation, the Louisiana-based owner — and the influx of employees has allowed the town to expand its elementary school and to build a library.

Another interesting angle on these events is the tension between working class Vernon and its swankier (gentrified?) neighbor, Brattleboro, population 12,005, which Zezima characterizes as "fiercely anti-nuclear."

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