The General Assembly returns to work on Tuesday, facing questions about the role of leading lawmakers in blocking wind power in Delaware.
A vote to approve Bluewater Wind’s proposed project was postponed Dec. 18, to the dismay of environmentalists and project supporters across the state.
Treasurer Jack Markell said state officials and members of the General Assembly must keep their promise to Delawareans and push forward with a plan to create a new source of energy in the state. In a letter to the assembly Thursday, Jan. 4, Markell said the Legislature must explain to the public its concerns over the project, which led to the vote being postponed.
Meanwhile, Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, asked fellow legislators to request that House and Senate leaders set up a meeting with the Public Service Commission’s (PSC’s) independent consultant so that the legislators would have all the facts about the project.
The PSC and representatives of four state agencies, the Office of Management and Budget, the Controller General, the Division of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the Energy Office, oversaw negotiations for the wind farm and were expected to vote on a proposed power purchase agreement between Bluewater Wind and Delmarva Power. But, state Controller General Russ Larson asked to delay the Dec. 18 vote on the proposal, because members of the legislature had reservations about the cost of the project.
Schwartzkopf said Larson got mixed messages from assembly leadership, which had not been conferring with members of the assembly, out of session in December. “He had direction the previous week, and that direction changed the day before the vote. He got mixed messages about the vote, especially with the proposal to include Delaware Electric Co-op in cost-sharing,” Schawartzkopf said. “I want to give the controller general credit because he went in there with mixed messages. When he asked for a delay, he saved the project for another day, and I’m grateful for that,” he said.
“Leadership hasn’t called meetings to see what we think,” Schwartzkopf said. In an email sent to House and Senate members, he asked that fellow assembly members request leadership hold meetings with representatives and senators and the PSC’s Independent Consultant. The assembly needs to have all its questions about Bluewater’s proposal answered and then go to its leadership and express its opinions there, Schwartzkopf said.
But Markel says Delawareans must be told why the state agencies decided to shelve the project. “Any agency head not prepared to accept the Power Purchase Agreement must answer this question: What new evidence has come forth that leads us to believe the Power Purchase Agreement is not the best possible outcome of the process anticipated and directed by legislators in passing H.B. 6 in the first place?” Markell wrote.
Bluewater’s planned project is the best option for the state, fitting all the criteria of House Bill 6, the law that called for stable-priced energy generated in-state, said Markell.
Legislators and the four officials responsible for the project’s fate must answer to the public and explain why the proposal was not approved, said Markell.
In response to calls from Delmarva Power to consider onshore wind, Schwartzkopf said he rejects the idea. With many states instituting renewable energy quotas and a limited supply of onshore suppliers, the cost of the product would soar, he said. “If we focus only on low price and price stability, both of which are important, we’re still missing the ball, we’re missing what we’re trying to do here,” said Sc hwartzkopf. An offshore wind farm would bring jobs and revenue, such as tourist dollars, to the state, he said.
“We don’t need to go through a bunch of other hearings like Sen. McDowell is calling for. We’ve already done that and we don’t need to do it again. What we need is a chance to talk to somebody about the project and our questions and then we need to go to our leadership and express our opinions there. That hasn’t been done yet,” said Schwartzkopf.
Sen. McDowell, D-Wilmington North, was asked by senate leaders to study various options for affordable and environmentally sensitive energy options.
Environmentalist groups in favor of the wind farm are also working to set up meetings with the leaders of each majority caucus. They hope to have the meetings by the end of January, said Nicholas DiPasquale of Delaware Audubon.
Legislators seek appoval of Bluewater contract
In line with Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf’s call for meetings with legislators, former Chairman of the House Energy Committee Rep. Robert Valihura Jr., R-Delaware North, and Senate Minority Whip Liane M. Sorenson, R-Yorklyn, on Monday, Jan. 7, announced that they will introduce a House Concurrent Resolution calling on the controller general to approve the pending contract with Bluewater Wind with certain amendments.
If passed, the resolution would have the force of law and would require the controller general to take action to vote with the three agencies – the Public Service Commission, the Energy Office and the Budget Office – to approve the pending contract between Bluewater Wind and Delmarva Power.
By Leah Hoenen
8 January 2008
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