The full General Assembly should have a say on whether the state commissions an offshore wind farm, six lawmakers are suggesting.
The lawmakers, led by Sen. Harris McDowell III, D-Wilmington, sent a letter to Controller General Russell Larson, dated Sept. 12. Larson holds one of the four votes that can order Delmarva Power to sign a 25-year power purchase agreement with Bluewater Wind.
In the letter, the lawmakers wrote that before Larson casts his vote, “you are obligated to return to the General Assembly for instructions as to how the General Assembly wishes to vote on the matter in question.”
The other lawmakers to sign the letter are Sen. Robert Venables, D-Laurel; Senate Minority Leader Charles Copeland, R-West Farms; Rep. Gregory Lavelle, R-Sharpley; Rep. Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View; and Rep. Hazel Plant, D-Wilmington.
In his response Sept. 18, Larson wrote he would continue to consult with the legislative leadership, as well as McDowell and Rep. Robert Valihura, R-Talleyville. If the leadership believes the entire General Assembly should weigh in, Larson said, he’ll wait until the legislative session begins in January, and hear them out.
Last year, as the state lifted rate caps, Delmarva Power residential customers saw 59 percent increases in their electric bills. The Legislature responded by ordering the state to take bids for a new power plant to supply homegrown, stable-priced power.
Some lawmakers remain concerned about the price of offshore wind energy, which has not yet been used in this country.
Copeland said he was concerned the deal would lock ratepayers into higher bills than if electricity suppliers competed on a regular basis to fill Delmarva’s required renewable-energy purchases. He said the public should be able to have its voice heard through their elected representatives.
“We ought to let private investors compete against one another to get us the best price point and price stability. I think the marketplace would do that better than some regulatory regime,” Copeland said. He said he wants to make sure low-income residents can afford wind power.
Bluewater has argued that it did compete for the long-term supply contract, but it was the only renewable power source to place a bid. The company – which had an Australian company, Babcock & Brown, acquire a controlling interest last week – argues its power will be less expensive than burning fossil fuels once the government enacts taxes on emissions.
Rep. John Kowalko, D-Newark, said he was concerned the lawmakers’ letter “can be construed as coercive.” He said having the General Assembly go back on its original legislation, like it did with the yard waste ban, would make it look weak and indecisive in the eyes of companies wishing to do business in this state.
Lavelle said he wants to be able to digest all the information possible before Larson votes.
“I’m not completely averse to anything at this point,” Lavelle said.
Larson said Bluewater’s proposal was unexpected but “very effective.” He noted Bluewater and Delmarva were still working on an agreement, a draft of which is due Nov. 30.
The other three state agencies with votes on the Bluewater project are the Public Service Commission, the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.
By Aaron Nathans
The News Journal
2 October 2007
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