Rhode Island Wind Farm Opponents Head to Court

     PROVIDENCE (CN) – The first off-shore wind farm in the United States will have Rhode Islanders footing the bill at $497 million above market cost, taxpayers claim in Federal Court.
     The Aug. 14 lawsuit comes less than a month after Deepwater Wind touted the installation of its first foundation component for the Block Island Wind Farm.
     With construction “now imminent,” plaintiffs Benjamin Riggs and Laurence Ehrhardt say a federal judge must enjoin Deepwater’s power-purchase agreement with Narragansett Electric Co., more commonly known as National Grid.
     The agreement, which the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission approved on Aug. 16, 2010, requires electricity consumers to front the cost National Grid’s purchase by paying 3.5 percent more per year for electricity for up to 20 years, according to the complaint.
     Riggs and Ehrhardt filed the complaint along with the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association, a trade group that lobbies to keep costs down for local businesses.
     Claiming that the deal advances “parochial state polices and undermine[s] federal policies,” the 27-page complaint says that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has “exclusive jurisdiction to regulate wholesale electricity transactions in interstate commerce.”
     The wind farm’s opponents say that the illegal power-purchase agreement “allows Deepwater Wind to receive a fixed price for the energy, regardless of the prices established in the FERC-approved wholesale markets.”
     Ultimately, the agreement “contravenes and stands as an obstacle to FERC’s regulatory policy choices,” the complaint states.
     William Harsch, an attorney for the plaintiffs based in a Warwick, R.I., has not returned a request for comment.

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