CLF, AG appeal Deepwater Wind contract approval to R.I. Supreme Court

THE CONSERVATION LAW FOUNDATION has filed an appeal of the R.I. Public Utilities Commission's decision to approve the Deepwater Wind-National Grid power purchase agreement. There is no word on when the R.I. Supreme Court will hear the case.
Posted 8/23/10

(Updated, 4:25 p.m.)

PROVIDENCE – An environmental group and R.I. Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch have asked the R.I. Supreme Court to overturn the approval of a contract key to the development of a wind farm off Block Island.

The Conservation Law Foundation Rhode Island chapter Friday appealed the R.I. Public Utilities Commission’s approval of a power-purchase agreement between wind farm developer Deepwater Wind and National Grid. Lynch filed his own appeal Monday.

The Public Utilities Commission approved the contract in August after rejecting a similar one in March, saying the price of electricity was too high. The General Assembly and Gov. Donald L. Carcieri responded with a law mandating the commission take another look.

The Conservation Law Foundation and Lynch argue the revised law violated the Rhode Island Constitution by favoring one company.

“As I’ve repeatedly said, I’m all for green energy. But in this case, green energy translates into greenbacks for the developers of an anti-competitive project with a limited scope that will force us to buy overpriced electricity for the next 20 years in order to subsidize one company, rather than jobs that are so desperately needed,” Lynch said in a news release.

In papers filed with the court, the foundation said the General Assembly “overstepped its bounds” in intervening in the case. The law caused the PUC to rule on a case it already decided and that violated judicial precedent that forbids hearing the same case twice, the foundation said. Lynch makes the same argument in his appeal and in addition, says the PUC failed to properly analyze Deepwater’s anticipated return on investment.

The foundation asked the court to overturn the PUC decision or, alternatively, to find that the law ordering the second review unconstitutional. Lynch also wants the decision thrown out.

In his appeal, Lynch said that the Supreme Court is obligated to hear any appeals under the law that set up the PUC hearing process. A spokeswoman for the Supreme Court could not provide a timeline for when the court may hear the case.

Deepwater Wind has said time is critical to the project. The New Jersey-based company wants the eight-turbine wind farm operational by the end of 2012 when certain federal tax credits expire.

On Monday, Deepwater CEO William Moore pledged to defend the PUC decision while the company waits for the state to complete an ocean Special Area Management Plan that will zone the waters off Rhode Island for various uses, including a wind farm.

“We will vigorously defend the R.I. Public Utilities Commission’s decision, as we believe it represents a major milestone toward solidifying Rhode Island’s leadership position in the offshore wind-development industry,” Moore said in a statement. “At the same time, we look forward to the completion of the ocean SAMP process and the continuation of permitting and development of the Block Island Wind Farm.”

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