PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island Supreme Court will not set a date for a hearing on challenges to a key approval for a proposed offshore wind farm near Block Island until it receives all transcripts and other documents related to the case.
“The court can’t do anything without them,” said court spokesman Craig N. Berke.
The state Public Utilities Commission, which approved a controversial power-purchase agreement between Deepwater Wind and National Grid last month, has until Sept. 23 to submit the full written record of the proceedings to the court.
Thomas Kogut, spokesman for the state Division of Public Utilities and Carriers, said the records are being compiled and could be submitted to the court sometime next week, well within the 30-day window that opened when appeals were filed Aug. 23.
Once the documents are filed, it could be months before the court is ready to hold a hearing. First, all parties involved in the case will be allowed to file pre-briefing statements. Then a single justice of the court will meet in conference with attorneys for those involved, said Berke. Even after a hearing is held, it could be several more weeks before a decision is issued.
Until then, Deepwater and National Grid won’t know if the 20-year agreement will stand for the sale of power from an eight-turbine wind farm proposed in waters southeast of Block Island. The starting price in the contract is up to 24.4 cents per kilowatt-hour, more than twice what National Grid pays for power from conventional sources.
Despite the high price, the Public Utilities Commission approved the contract in a 2-to-1 vote Aug. 11, taking into consideration environmental and economic development benefits for the state.
However, the decision was appealed by Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch, a vocal objector to the price, and the Conservation Law Foundation, which opposes state legislation that underpins the deal. In addition, Toray Plastics and Polytop Corp., manufacturers that use a lot of electricity, filed a joint appeal.
Deepwater representatives have said the company will not delay development or permitting applications because of the pending appeals.
Deepwater is attempting to build the first offshore wind farm in the United States. Another company, Cape Wind Associates, is trying to do the same with a 130-turbine project off Cape Cod; hearings before Massachusetts regulators on a proposed power-purchase agreement between that developer and National Grid started Tuesday.
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