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State scolds foes of Cape Wind development over info leak

The main opponent of the Cape Wind project got zapped yesterday for releasing confidential information in the electric rate case for the controversial offshore wind development.

Department of Public Utilities chairwoman Ann Berwick stopped just short of officially sanctioning the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound for disclosing sensitive rate-case information.

But Berwick said she will “impose serious sanctions” if a similar incident happens again.

“The sanctions will include, but not be limited to, a report to the licensing authorities where any responsible lawyers are admitted to practice,” Berwick said at the outset of yesterday’s hearing into a rate proposal between Cape Wind and National Grid.

The security breach, which apparently had to do with proprietary data used in calculating Cape Wind prices, occurred when the Nantucket Sound alliance was shooting off hearing-related e-mails that included confidential material.

The alliance, like other parties in the rate case, has signed confidentiality agreements in order to review sensitive data.

In DPU filings, National Grid last weekend complained about two separate leaks, arguing the alliance should be reprimanded and banned from using any of the leaked material during public hearings.

Glenn Benson, an attorney for the alliance, said yesterday the disclosures were simple mistakes.

“It was completely inadvertent,” Benson said during a break in yesterday’s hearing. He said he was “rushed” by a crush of filings and erred in releasing confidential material.

But Berwick didn’t sound pleased.

“I want to make absolutely clear the seriousness with which we view this breach,” Berwick said, adding that she and other DPU regulators couldn’t recall another time when information improperly leaked out.