A House Democratic appeal for faster action on a proposed $1.6 billion offshore wind farm got little traction Thursday, with House Republicans terming any concrete action unlikely before springtime.
“I think some of them are waiting until Harris McDowell has finished up his hearings” in March, said House Speaker Terry R. Spence, R-Stratford.
Senate Energy & Transit Committee Chairman Harris B. McDowell III, D-Wilmington North, began a series of hearings on Bluewater Wind LLC’s proposed 150-turbine wind project east of Rehoboth Beach this month, with a report due in early April.
House Democrats this week called for action to bypass McDowell’s review. In a letter to the legislature’s Controller General, House Minority Leader Robert F. Gilligan, D-Sherwood Park, and Minority Whip Helene M. Keeley, D-Wilmington South, called for a conference of party caucus leaders from both chambers and a favorable recommendation “before the Legislature returns to session” on March 11.
Keeley said Thursday that the meeting request was not a full caucus endorsement backed by a membership vote, although several House Democrats contacted Thursday supported the project.
Wilmington Rep. Hazel D. Plant, D-Wilmington Central, said she had not been asked her views before the House Democrats sent their letter, and said she wants more time to study it.
“I’m not going to speak for the caucus, but I do support the idea and I’ve conveyed that position at a number of civic association meetings and have not gotten any negative feedback,” said Rep. Larry Mitchell, D-Elsmere.
Rep. Donald Blakey, R-Dover South, said he supports the project but sees no need to act before McDowell’s committee completes its study.
“It seems kind of fruitless to try to get something done on the House side in March and have the two clash and wind up in an utter state of confusion,” Blakey said. “It seems the best thing to do is wait a while and see what the Senate comes up with.”
McDowell said House leaders had previously said they were unlikely to act until May. Bluewater, he added, is unlikely to start construction before 2011 and already is free to continue other preparatory work for the wind firm while awaiting a decision.
Bluewater Wind LLC wants the state to order Delmarva Power to sign a 25-year contract for electricity from the its 150 turbine wind farm in federal waters east of Rehoboth Beach. The wind operation would deliver an average 155 megawatts, and would be supported by a conventional natural gas- or oil-fired generator large enough to provide Delmarva with as much as 300 megawatts in total new supply.
Estimates say the project may initially add $13 to $14 per month to Delmarva’s standard-offer customer bills, but could decline to break even with current rates after 2025 if natural gas prices increase significantly. Spreading the cost to other Delmarva or state electricity customers could lower rate impacts to $7 extra monthly in early years.
A four-agency panel agreed to table the project in December, after the panel delegate representing the General Assembly was unable to find consensus among lawmakers.
Bluewater Wind’s parent company, Babcock & Brown, pledged support Thursday for a regional turbine maintenance training program at Delaware Technical & Community College.
Some Republicans in the House and Senate backed a concurrent resolution this week calling for draft legislation to spread the risk and burden of the proposed Bluewater Wind LLC project to all Delaware ratepayers, instead of a minority of Delmarva Power customers.
By Jeff Montgomery
15 February 2008
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding