Deepwater Wind critic alleges mishandling of public hearings

Robert W. Shields, chairman of Narragansett-based political action committee Deepwater Resistance, has filed a complaint in R.I. Superior Court against the R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council and Deepwater Wind LLC. More

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Deepwater Wind critic alleges mishandling of public hearings

BLOOMBERG FILE PHOTO/CHRIS RATCLIFFE
ROBERT W. SHIELDS, chairman of the Deepwater Resistance political action committee that has opposed Deepwater Wind's Block Island Wind Farm, has filed a complaint in R.I. Superior Court claiming the Coastal Resources Management Council violated its regulations by blocking testimony on the project's economic impact during public hearings in February.
Posted 7/22/14

(Updated, July 23, 10:09 a.m.)

PROVIDENCE – Robert W. Shields, chairman of Narragansett-based political action committee Deepwater Resistance, has filed a complaint in R.I. Superior Court against the R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council and Deepwater Wind LLC, claiming the CRMC did not adequately review the economic impact of the proposed Block Island Wind Farm and mishandled public hearings on the matter.

The complaint filed on July 11 centers on Shields’ testimony at a CRMC subcommittee hearing on Feb. 27, when he alleges the subcommittee members prevented him and two other individuals from testifying on the potential negative economic impact of the wind farm, while proponents of Deepwater Wind were allowed to comment on project costs and economics without interruption.

“This wind farm proposal is without a doubt the most far reaching matter ever to come before the CRMC,” Shields wrote in the complaint. “Since the very first [R.I. Public Utilities Commission] hearing on this proposal in 2010, the process has revealed every indication of having been fast tracked by the executive, legislative and regulatory agencies of state government to the detriment of adequate review and scrutiny.”

Shields maintains that the CRMC is obligated to hear and evaluate socioeconomic testimony, and that in failing to do so the agency violated the stipulations of its own Ocean Special Area Management Plan regulations and neglected due diligence on the matter of the Block Island Wind Farm.

Furthermore, Shields states, the CRMC violated his own civil liberties by blocking his full testimony at the public hearings.

In his complaint, Shields asks the court to mandate that the CRMC draft a new staff report on the Block Island Wind Farm including the socioeconomic impact of the project, and also to require that Deepwater Wind amend its operational plan to correct “ambiguities” and add turbine operating data that will inform a new round of hearings that Shields requests be held.

Jeffrey Grybowski, CEO of Deepwater Wind, called Shields’ appeal “frivolous and nothing but a blatant attempt to slow this important clean energy project.”

“This appeal doesn’t impact our project plans one bit,” Grybowski added. “We are proceeding with the Block Island Wind Farm at full speed. Our legal team is now preparing a full response to the appeal and we are very confident that the court will reject this baseless complaint.”

Laura Dwyer, a spokeswoman for the CRMC, said the agency cannot comment on pending litigation but is reviewing Shields’ appeal. Deepwater Wind has advised the CRMC that they would like to schedule a conference with the judge to determine scheduling, and the CRMC will also be there to enter an appearance, Dwyer said.

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