Once again, a Kennedy is blasting the proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm but this time the focus is on the high cost of the project.
In an opinion piece printed Monday in the Wall Street Journal, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. calls Cape Wind a “rip-off” and alleges that a merger between NStar and Northeast Utilities is being held up by Massachusetts utility regulators to force the companies to buy half of the project’s power.
The Kennedy family compound in Hyannisport overlooks Nantucket Sound. The family, led by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, has long opposed the 130-turbine Cape Wind project.
NStar delivers electricity to Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard; National Grid delivers to Nantucket and other parts of the state. National Grid has already agreed to buy half of Cape Wind’s power and says it will add about $1.50 to the average electricity bill of a National Grid customer using 618 kilowatt hours a month. The price of the contract between Cape Wind and National Grid will rise by 3.5 percent each year.
Opponents of Cape Wind argue that the cost to businesses will be far greater, causing a ripple effect in the state’s economy.
The review of the merger between NStar and Northeast Utilities has nothing to do with Cape Wind, according to state officials.
“It is the responsibility of the Department of Public Utilities to ensure that any proposed merger is both beneficial for ratepayers and in-line with the Commonwealth’s nation-leading energy standards,” Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Mark Sylvia said in a statement emailed to the Times on Tuesday in response to Kennedy’s opinion piece.
“It is in that spirit alone that the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) has moved to stay the merger proceeding pending the receipt of robust rate impact information, and applied (a) ‘net benefit’ standard to this case,” Sylvia wrote.
The cost of Cape Wind’s power, Kennedy writes, is far higher than what is available to Massachusetts utilities from Hydro-Quebec, a Canadian-based power generator that Cape Wind opponents say is a less-expensive source of power. Most of Hydro-Quebec’s electricity, which is sold to markets in Canada and the United States, comes from hydroelectric dams.
Kennedy, who did not return messages seeking comment for this story, argues in the Wall Street Journal piece that cheaper electricity is also available from land-based wind turbines.
Kennedy’s position on Cape Wind and, in particular, his support for importing power from a hydroelectric generator in Canada, smacks of hypocrisy given his environmental credentials, said Cape Wind officials and other supporters of the project.
“Over the past eight years Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has been attacking the Cape Wind project, while also calling for the greater use of wind and solar power as alternatives to coal,” Cape Wind officials said in a statement issued in response to Kennedy’s opinion piece. “In so doing, Mr. Kennedy has been derided by those across the political spectrum who say his misleading objections mask an entitled and hypocritical objection to the aesthetics of wind turbines six miles off his family’s waterfront compound.”
Kennedy is a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council and is well-known for his environmental work, including his opposition to hydroelectric projects in Canada and elsewhere. One of the Canadian projects he has opposed in the past was proposed by Hydro-Quebec.
In a 2004 column Kennedy argued against another hydroelectric project proposed by Manitoba Hydro, citing the potential impact of hydropower on people and the environment.
“Manitoba Hydro has been selling its projects as the answer to combat climate change due to the low greenhouse gas emissions of hydroelectricity, but hydro development not only harms the land and the people who live there, it may worsen global warming,” Kennedy wrote.
Michael Conathan, director of ocean policy at the Center for American Progress, took aim at Kennedy in a piece posted Monday on the website Climate Progress and again in an interview on Tuesday.
“I think hypocrisy is a strong word but I think it has to apply in this case,” Conathan said.
Conathan, who grew up in Centerville and still regularly visits family on the Cape, said Kennedy is clearly on the record opposing hydropower.
Kennedy’s position on Cape Wind, however, is no longer a surprise, Conathan said.
“It seems fairly clear that he’s grasping at straws for ways to justify that position,” Conathan said.
Cape Wind’s staunchest opponents disagree. “I think the point (Kennedy is) making is that Cape Wind is far more expensive than other clean energy,” said Audra Parker, president and CEO of the anti-Cape Wind group, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound.
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