PROVIDENCE – In his last official act as state attorney general, Democrat Patrick C. Lynch sent out a letter to a group of local nonprofit organizations, urging them to join with him in challenging the constitutionality of the Deepwater Wind Block Island wind-farm project, calling it “an inside deal” pushed by outgoing Governor Carcieri and embraced by the General Assembly.
Although Lynch’s successor, outgoing state Rep. Peter F. Kilmartin, says he’s in favor of the Deepwater Wind project, and plans to end the state’s current appeal of the project, Lynch said last week in an interview that he’ll adopt the brief filed by his staff and continue the appeal as a private citizen. He said he hopes former attorneys general Arlene Violet and James E. O’Neil will join him, and that other groups promoting separation of powers file their own friend-of-the-court (amicus) briefs to try to convince the state’s highest court to reject the endeavor.
Kilmartin, who has served for the past 20 years in the legislature, voted for the bill backed by Carcieri and organized labor to set the Deepwater Wind offshore turbine project back on course after the first Public Utilities Commission rejection of the project. Upon reconsideration, the PUC, in August, approved a controversial 20-year power-purchase agreement between Deepwater and National Grid in a 2-to-1 vote, citing environmental and economic development benefits for the state.
Kilmartin said during the campaign that he supports the project “as a long-term solution to energy costs and the rise in gas and fuel costs.”
But Lynch says the Deepwater Wind law, enacted by Kilmartin and his colleagues at the State House, “presents a real and present danger to the principle of separation of powers,” and he is imploring seven nonprofit organizations to fight to overturn the project in the Rhode Island Supreme Court. The groups he wants to join the fray include TEC RI, the nonprofit energy consortium made up of about 30 of the state’s largest users of energy; Common Cause of Rhode Island; AARP of Rhode Island; the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition, an advocate for quality of life issues for the state’s residents; Operation Clean Government; Save The Bay; and the League of Women Voters of Rhode Island.
“The struggle for Separation of Powers – part of the larger struggle for clean, accountable government – must be won anew in view of the current Deepwater deal,” Lynch wrote. He called the project a “$400-million boondoggle which … will create only six permanent jobs and will bring only a minuscule amount of wind power to Rhode Island at the expense of long-term green energy in all its forms.”
Lynch said the law that pushed the project back on track was enacted by the General Assembly “as a result of pressure from the outgoing governor” and “pre-selected Deepwater for exclusive consideration.” If the project is allowed to go forward, he wrote, it “will force the families and businesses of our Ocean State to buy grossly overpriced electricity for the next 20 years to specifically guarantee one company’s revenues and profits.”
Lynch said that this is the first time in his eight years as attorney general that his office has challenged the constitutionality of a law that has passed the General Assembly and been signed by a governor.
“Fortunately,” Lynch wrote in his letter, “there is still a chance for the judiciary to stand as a bulwark against this gubernatorial invasion of judicial power …. This fight is so important that none of us committed to fair, open government can check our credentials at the door.”
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