Cape Wind foes have launched their legal challenge to state regulators’ approval of the electricity deal between National Grid and the developer of the controversial offshore energy project.
The Associated Industries of Massachusetts and the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, among others, filed initial briefs yesterday with the Supreme Judicial Court, appealing the state Department of Utilities decision in November that handed Cape Wind a key regulatory approval.
The case before the state’s highest court is expected to continue into the fall – the time when developer Cape Wind Associates wants to finally start the $2.6 billion, 130-turbine project slated for Nantucket Sound after a decade of legal and regulatory wrangling.
AIM, a group representing hundreds of Bay State employers, argued yesterday that the 15-year contract between National Grid and Cape Wind unfairly distributes the project’s costs to ratepayers in violation of the Green Communities Act, the Patrick administration’s 2008 law aimed at juicing the renewable energy industry.
“The Cape Wind contract should not be approved,” AIM’s attorney, Robert Ruddock, wrote in a legal brief. “The (DPU) should direct its proponents to reopen the contract and consider cost-effective proposals from both inside and outside Massachusetts.”
The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, led by longtime Cape Wind critic Audra Parker, is challenging the DPU’s approval on constitutional grounds.
DPU spokesman Timothy Shevlin said the agency would have no comment on the SJC filings. Cape Wind Associates and National Grid also declined immediate comment.
The DPU and project proponents are expected to file their own briefs with the court in July. Oral arguments before the SJC are on track for September or October, with justices most likely deciding within about four months.
National Grid’s purchase agreement for half of Cape Wind’s electricity will most likely cost ratepayers between $420 million and $695 million above market prices for the life of the contract, according to the DPU.
In announcing its decision last year, DPU Chairwoman Ann Berwick said Cape Wind’s renewable-energy benefits outweigh the project’s costs – 18.7 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2013 and rising 3.5 percent annually for 15 years, according to the contract.
Since securing its final government permits last month, Cape Wind Associates is still trying to sell the other half of the project’s energy and secure private financing and federal loan guarantees.
Cape Wind was dealt a setback last week when the U.S. Department of Energy put the developer’s application for loan backing “on hold” until the program gets more funding from Congress.
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