Article

PUC allows Deepwater hearing to go forward, but reserves right to toss it later

The R.I. Public Utilities Commission made no decision Wednesday whether to stop hearings on a proposed offshore wind farm. Instead, the commission said it would determine whether to dismiss the case after the entire case wraps up Aug. 11.

WARWICK - The R.I. Public Utilities Commission made no decision Wednesday whether to stop hearings on a proposed offshore wind farm. Instead, the commission said it would determine whether to dismiss the case after the entire case wraps up Aug. 11.

The commission is mulling whether to approve a power-purchase agreement between wind farm developer Deepwater Wind and utility National Grid. The PUC is considering the agreement under a law passed after commissioners rejected a similar contract earlier this year.

The Conservation Law Foundation and R.I. Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch's office spent much of Wednesday morning saying that amounted to a violation of judicial standards, which forbid the hearing of the same case twice.

But Gerald Petros, a lawyer for National Grid and Deepwater, said the contracts were different, the updated law provided new criteria and the prior judicial cases cited by the foundation and attorney general didn't apply.

"My claim is different," Petros said. "This is not a challenge to the commission's prior decision."

Petros likened the situation to a developer wanting to construct a hotel on land restricted to private housing. The same developer, he said, could not return after a... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

WARWICK - The R.I. Public Utilities Commission made no decision Wednesday whether to stop hearings on a proposed offshore wind farm. Instead, the commission said it would determine whether to dismiss the case after the entire case wraps up Aug. 11.

The commission is mulling whether to approve a power-purchase agreement between wind farm developer Deepwater Wind and utility National Grid. The PUC is considering the agreement under a law passed after commissioners rejected a similar contract earlier this year.

The Conservation Law Foundation and R.I. Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch's office spent much of Wednesday morning saying that amounted to a violation of judicial standards, which forbid the hearing of the same case twice.

But Gerald Petros, a lawyer for National Grid and Deepwater, said the contracts were different, the updated law provided new criteria and the prior judicial cases cited by the foundation and attorney general didn't apply.

"My claim is different," Petros said. "This is not a challenge to the commission's prior decision."

Petros likened the situation to a developer wanting to construct a hotel on land restricted to private housing. The same developer, he said, could not return after a denial by a zoning board and expect the board to hear again a case for the same hotel. But if the city council changed the law to allow hotels on the property, the developer could return. Petros said essentially the same scenario occurred when the General Assembly passed an amended law in the wake of the PUC denial of the power-purchase agreement.

Jerry Elmer, a lawyer for the Conservation Law Foundation, countered that the case before the PUC was not substantially different and the law passed by the General Assembly did not explicitly allow the commission to hear the same case again.

And he charged that agreeing that the situation was different would amount to allowing the utility to repeatedly file proposed contracts and label them different, even if one comma changed.

Commissioners appeared skeptical of Elmer's arguments, with Chairman Elia Germani proclaiming at one point "this is a different case." Commissioner Paul Roberti pressed Elmer and Assistant Attorney General Michael Rubin on what the Legislature could have done to specifically allow the PUC to review the case. He asked Elmer if lawmakers really needed to insert the specific clause Elmer said was missing from the law.

"Your argument taken to the national progression, would it mean the Legislature only gets one opportunity to legislate on a specific subject matter unless they use those magic words?" Roberti asked.

Elmer replied the whole process amounted to a violation of a judicial standards because it favored one developer, Deepwater, over the rest.

Only Commissioner Mary Bray remained silent throughout the hearing.

The commissioners are expected to travel to Block Island Thursday to hear public comment about the eight-turbine wind farm proposed for three miles off the island. Later Thursday they return to their Warwick offices for another public comment hearing.

And next week the PUC is scheduled to hear a request by Canadian power company TransCanada to toss the case. TransCanada argues the law establishing the hearing process unfairly discriminates against non-Rhode Island-based companies in violation of the commerce clause in the U.S. Constitution.


Source: http://www.pbn.com/detail/5...

JUL 22 2010
http://www.windaction.org/posts/27361-puc-allows-deepwater-hearing-to-go-forward-but-reserves-right-to-toss-it-later
back to top