CAPE WIND ISSUED a position statement on Tuesday calling the House’s energy bill anticompetitive, unconstitutional, and the result of “a form of legislative bid-rigging.”
The unusually harsh statement was issued the day before the House is scheduled to take up a bill that would authorize the state’s utilities to purchase large quantities of offshore wind and hydroelectricity from Canada, possibly in conjunction with other forms of clean energy.
The House bill, as amended by the Ways and Means Committee, excludes Cape Wind from bidding on the offshore wind contracts by requiring that bidders must have federal leases on the Outer Continental Shelf that were issued on a competitive basis after January 1, 2012. The bill also prohibits the involvement of any bidders who would operate wind turbines within 10 miles of an inhabited area.
Cape Wind said its project is the only one of the four current wind farm leaseholders that obtained its lease prior to 2012; the proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm is also within 10 miles of shore, which is the chief reason why a number of Cape Cod landowners oppose the project.
The Cape Wind position statement suggests the House bill, by unfairly targeting one potential bidder with no “rational basis,” would violate the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution. The statement hints Cape Wind would sue if the language becomes law, which “would create years of uncertainty and cloud progress under all aspects of the bill.”
The statement alleges the “anticompetitive provisions” of the legislation were introduced “outside of the public eye” and “the result of the worst kind of backdoor maneuvering by connected insiders, a form of legislative bid rigging.” The statement doesn’t say who orchestrated the changes, but notes former House speaker Thomas Finneran was hired as a lobbyist by the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, which has led opposition to Cape Wind.
Audra Parker, the president and CEO of the alliance, declined comment.
For those who have followed Cape Wind for a long time, the position statement is full of irony. Cape Wind came very close to building its wind farm, landing two power-purchase contracts with the state’s utilities that some described as overpriced, sweetheart deals rammed through with the help of the Patrick administration. But the project collapsed early in 2015 when the two utilities canceled their Cape Wind power contracts after the wind farm was unable to meet financing deadlines.
Now, as Cape Wind officials try to get their project back on track, they are taking a page from their opponents, suggesting the Nantucket Sound wind farm is being excluded from the bidding process in a bid to stifle competition. “Its opponents would not need to exclude Cape Wind from bidding unless they knew it would likely be the winning lowest-cost bidder,” the statement said.
Cape Wind is also threatening legal action, which has been the tactic employed by the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound. Indeed, Bill Koch, one of the alliance’s major financial backers, said the never-ending lawsuits were designed to “delay, delay, delay.”
The bill headed for the House floor on Wednesday was crafted by House members in the Legislature’s Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy and then tweaked slightly as it passed through the Ways and Means Committee. One key change by the Ways and Means Committee would allow the state’s utilities, National Grid and Eversource, to collect 2.75 percent of the annual payments under both the offshore wind and hydroelectric contracts “to compensate the company for accepting the financial obligation of the long-term contract.”