Articles from Rhode Island
Governor Carcieri and the state's legislative leaders put more pressure Monday on the state's Public Utilities Commission to approve a power-purchase agreement to pave the way for a $205-million wind farm to serve Block Island ...The commission remains committed to announcing a decision on Aug. 11, just within the deadline mandated by the General Assembly.
On Tuesday, Shigeru Osada, senior vice president of engineering and maintenance of Toray Plastics, which employs 600 people in Rhode Island where it manufactures thin, high technology film for industrial applications, testified that over the 20 years of the Block Island wind farm project, Toray would have to pay an additional $7.3 million in fees to National Grid.
Attorney Michael McElroy, representing two of Rhode Island's largest manufacturers, persistently questioned Deepwater CEO William Moore to show that the cost and projected profit were understated for the company's proposed wind farm three miles off Block Island.
The R.I. Economic Development Corporation said Thursday that its study of the economic impact of an offshore wind farm looked only at the positives. Asked by Toray Plastics (America) Inc. if the study factored in potential negative effects of the farm's above-market electric rates, the EDC replied, simply, "No."
The state Public Utilities Commission will not rule on the latest motion to dismiss a case for a power-purchase agreement between offshore wind developer Deepwater Wind and National Grid until the final day of proceedings, Aug. 11. The commission held a hearing Tuesday morning on the motion from TransCanada Power, a Canadian energy company that says it can provide Rhode Island with renewable power at a far cheaper price than Deepwater.
TransCanada argues that the Rhode Island law governing renewable-power contracts violates the Commerce Clause in the U.S. Constitution because it favors in-state projects. The law, enacted a year ago, discriminates against out-of-state energy producers and thereby restricts interstate commerce, says TransCanada.
Outside the hearing room, Lynch said that for someone of Mazze's stature to testify "so eloquently how bad this project is for Rhode Island confirms that my position [opposing the wind farm contract] is the appropriate one for Rhode Island citizens." Lynch also referred to a cable to deliver electricity to Block Island, which is part of the proposed eight-turbine project.
Massachusetts and Rhode Island will jointly explore the development of offshore wind power in federal waters near the two states, according to an agreement announced Monday by the states' governors.
On Wednesday, the three-member commission heard arguments for dismissal. While both entities contend that the law calling upon the PUC to weigh the new contract violated the U.S. Constitution, they concentrated on other arguments, including that it was unlawful to reconsider a contract once a decision had already been rendered.
The PUC will begin formal hearings on the new Power Purchase Agreement between Deepwater Wind and National Grid next week. While there was virtual agreement among the speakers that the island urgently needed relief from its current electricity rates, there were divergent views about how to get there.
"Block Island is most at-risk with this project," said Michael Hickey. ...Nobody has more to lose than Block Island if this project does not work out as planned." He and others say the price of wind power has been inflated to cover any risk Deepwater is exposed to. "I also object to the fact that the ratepayers of Rhode Island are being asked to subsidize this experiment," said John Hopf.
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.
Chairman Elia Germani said a ruling on the motions will not be made until the final day of proceedings, currently scheduled for Aug. 11. That means the three-member commission will decide whether to dismiss the case on the same day it decides whether to approve the long-term contract.
"I have seen no testimony from any party that assures the state that these economic development events will happen, and I am of the opinion that they will not happen," Edward M. Mazze, distinguished university professor of business administration at the University of Rhode Island, said in written testimony filed on Monday. Mazze testified on behalf of Toray Plastics America and Polytop Corp.
Political observers say if the wind farm moves forward, Carcieri's name would surely be tied to it. On the other hand, a rejection would deliver a blow to a governor preparing to exit office. "To get this thing through would be part of his legacy," Moakley said. "I think he sees it that way and ... I think he genuinely believes in that project."
In allowing the case to proceed, commissioners pointed to the law passed by the General Assembly that outlined a 45-day schedule for the PUC to hear the case and said a delay would go against the intent of lawmakers. And they said the Conservation Law Foundation would not suffer irreparable harm if the hearing continued, but Deepwater Wind would.
So how ironic would it be if Massachusetts consumers end up paying higher electric rates because of the Cape Wind project, but Rhode Island gets the lion's share of the jobs? ...There are already a host of reasons to dislike this project - the location, the financing, the cost to consumers. Now we might get one more.
In briefs filed with the PUC, the Conservation Law Foundation argued the law directing the PUC to study the contract again is unconstitutional because it favors one company and forces an agency to reconsider a matter already decided. The CLF wants the PUC to stop hearing the case while it addresses the legal questions.
“We continue to fight against this special-interest measure and inside deal tailored to put only one entity, Deepwater Wind, on the fast track to develop a costly demonstration project that isn’t needed, and will create only six full-time jobs,” Lynch said in a news release. "It's an exercise in futility."
In a sharply worded statement Wednesday, Gov. Donald L. Carcieri blasted Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch and the Conservation Law Foundation for asking the R.I. Public Utilities Commission to stop hearing a case about a proposed offshore wind farm.