Rep. Patrick Kennedy said yesterday that a wind farm located in Rhode Island waters between Newport and Block Island would be a bad idea because it would hurt the state’s tourism and fishing industries.
Those waterways are frequently used by people who sail between the two locations for recreation and racing, said Kennedy, a recreational sailor.
“I’m sorry, you can’t tell me that’s not going to affect tourism, the fishing industry and everything else. It just is. There is no other convincing me that it won’t,” he said.
His remarks came during an interview with The Providence Journal after he attended an event at a shelter for the homeless in which he and his cousin, Joseph Kennedy, spoke of the dire need to provide more heating assistance to the poor.
Governor Carcieri has proposed building a state-owned wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island that would generate up to 15 percent of the electricity used in the state. A consultant hired by the state identified 10 potential offshore sites, including areas off the coast of Newport, Little Compton, Point Judith, Watch Hill and Block Island. The state has not yet selected a site or made a formal proposal, and the response from a stakeholders’ group, formed by the governor, has been mostly positive about the project.
Patrick Kennedy’s remarks came about when he was asked about a lengthy federal report issued Monday that concluded that the wind farm project proposed by Cape Wind Associates LLC off the coast of Massachusetts would have mostly minor or negligible impacts on the environment, tourism and fishing industries.
Kennedy said he hadn’t read the report but said he still believes that the project will hurt the region’s economy. “I think it will hurt our whole economy if these monster windmills go in there and destroy what I think would be a basic tourism trade we have built our economy on in this area,” he said.
Kennedy’s father, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., has been a staunch opponent of the Cape Wind project.
Patrick Kennedy said there still isn’t a proper federal siting process in place, similar to the one that exists for proposals to build offshore oil rigs.
“We want to have a process in place so we don’t have it rammed down our throats and put right off the mouth of Narragansett Bay and off of Block Island,” he said.
Asked whether he thought there was any site in Rhode Island waters that would be suitable for a wind farm, Kennedy said, “I don’t think it would be a good idea. A lot of it depends … we’re talking size, location.”
He backed off a bit from that statement, saying “I’d have to take a look at it. … I wouldn’t rule it out.”
Earlier, Kennedy and his cousin, Joseph Kennedy, spoke in front of New Hope Shelter, an apartment building with five units that are used by families without homes.
Joseph Kennedy is chief executive officer of Citizens Energy, a Massachusetts company that provides heating assistance and oil to poor families. The company has a shelter assistance program in which it donates money to about 100 homeless shelters in Rhode Island and Massachusetts to help cover utility costs.
Kennedy gave a check for $5,000 to David McCreadie, director of the shelter, who said that would be enough to cover utility expenses for an entire year.
Citizens give about $250,000 each year to shelters through the program, said Ashley Durmer, a spokeswoman for the company.
The money comes from the profits of various companies that Joseph Kennedy has started, he said. This particular program is not related to a controversial one in which Citizens Energy receives discounted heating oil that is subsidized by the government of Venezuela, he said.
Kennedy criticized the big oil companies for not doing enough to help poor families with heating costs, even though corporate profits are reaching record levels. He said that Exxon Mobil has publicized the fact that it has put “0.0 percent of all their monies into alternative energy.”
He said that the government should implement windfall-profit taxes on the oil companies to help pay for heating assistance. Today’s high heating costs are “devastating” to the poor, he said, and the federal government has cut assistance it provides through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
“The truth is, this year’s assistance will provide less than half of one tank fill [of heating oil]. What are these families going to do? What are the shelters going to do? The truth of the matter is people are just going to go cold,” Kennedy said.
By Timothy C. Barmann
Journal Staff Writer
16 January 2008
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