The Block Island Times editorial last week showed that it is the paper that has removed itself from thoughtful discussion of the relevant issues, not the citizens who have the backbone to publically oppose the town on many current issues. The paper consistently fails to report discussions at public meetings accurately and thoroughly, or even report them at all. This leaves the readers with a slanted view of what transpires in our town government. Last week the editorial tried to portray the disagreement over Deepwater and the Energy Plan as a function of wealth. Baloney. The disagreements are a function of professional and/or personal reasons. The state’s obsession with offshore wind at the expense of basic economic analysis has resulted in a project that will tie a financial burden around this community and all the state ratepayers’ necks. For the BI Times to state that it provides “perhaps the only chance for bringing our energy costs under control” is wrong and just another example of jumping on the bandwagon of this flawed project. Doing so is much easier than doing the rigorous analysis required. The fundamental assumptions and promises of this project need to be scrutinized. The promise of lower cost energy and significant job creation won’t hold up.
Why hasn’t the Block Island Times researched the cost of other approaches that would provide the equivalent results this project is supposedly all about? They would find that for much less money, Block Island could produce much of its own energy, reduce the consumption of inefficient and wasted energy, and provide the “risk premium” that Deepwater said is needed to be established for the larger farm. Doesn’t it make more sense to determine the risk premium at the actual site of the larger project? Why here? Former Governor Carcieri said it best when asked why develop a project off of Block Island when he responded, “Because there is no organized opposition.” It is small wonder that RI is just about dead last among the United State’s economies with that type of thinking to energy policy.
With respect to the draft energy plan, the Block Island Times should have reported the comments about how flawed the plan is. I did offer comments during its development and at the Planning Board meeting. But we all know that in this state and town, the answers to questions are often known even before the questions are asked, and it showed in that document. I have worked 25 years in energy and energy policy, and I have been part of many of the components of the energy plan. I feel qualified to comment that the document was poorly written, and made far-reaching and incorrect conclusions. It is a dangerous and unimpressive document if it were to be adopted into the town’s comprehensive plan as it currently stands.
Most of the residents of Block Island who offer their opinion have spent considerable time discussing and evaluating the issues. I don’t know which is worse, the lack of investigative journalism, or the pre-packaged and choreographed “forum” that WRNI recently sponsored. (So far, WRNI has not responded to requests to sponsor a forum on the island.)
To: the Editor—
The editorial in the Block Island Times last week stated that the Deepwater proposed wind farm presents the “best chance of bringing electricity costs under control, essential if we are not to lost what middle class remains here.” A letter by Neil Lang extends this class based argument in his support of the wind farm. He assumes that the division on the topic is between the “locals” and the newcomers and “nouveau riche.”
Claiming that those who have reservations about the Block Island demonstration project lack concern for preserving the middle class on this island, or have an “elitist attitude,” is unfair and wrong. Regardless of where we stand on the issue, we are all in support of lowering energy bills, expanding the use of alternative energy and eliminating our dependence on fossil fuels. However, this demonstration project has lost considerable support due to ever evolving concerns and unanswered questions from credible, objective sources. The constituents on both sides of the issue are not divided by class, age, politics, devotion to conservation or preservation. The even split represents thoughtful, passionate, well-meaning islanders seeking the best answer for the island’s future. I am in agreement with the editorial’s conclusion:
“It is our civic right, in fact our duty, to show up and complain. This is Block Island, where everyone who wants one, can have a voice. And let’s do it in a way that makes us proud.”
To: the Editor—
Do we really understand what lies ahead for the island?
For several years now, Block Islanders have been focusing on the implications of five wind turbines located 2.6 miles off the Southeast Light House, yet there is another consideration which can dwarf this issue. That is the designation of a renewable energy zone south of Block Island. On October 19, 2010 the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council adopted the Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan (SAMP) (http://seagrant.gso.uri.edu/oceansamp/), the massive two-volume scientific and policy study of 1,500 square miles of Block Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. Volume 1, over 1,000 pages in length, include 11 chapters on marine ecology, climate change, cultural and historic resources, commercial and recreational fisheries, recreation and tourism and marine transportation, renewable energy and other offshore development, existing regulations and policies and lastly, policies of the Ocean SAMP.
Chapter 11, Policies of the Ocean SAMP, has the greatest implication for the future of Block Island. As stated in Chapter 11:
“In assessing the natural resources and existing human uses present in state waters of the Ocean SAMP area, the Council finds that the most suitable area for offshore renewable energy development in the state waters of the Ocean SAMP area is the Renewable Energy Zone (named the Block Island Renewable Energy Zone) depicted in Figure 11.1…” (Figure 11.1 is located on page 27 of Chapter 11, page 974 of 1,021 pages of the pdf)
Using Figure 11.1 of the “Block Island Renewable Energy Zone”, I estimated the following: The zone is approximately 1.25 miles wide, extends from 1.75 miles to 3 miles offshore, is approximately 8 miles in length and 10 square miles in area and extends around the south end of the Island from Southwest Point to Old Harbor Point.
The Block Island Renewable Energy Zone is the only zone in Rhode Island waters (Rhode Island water extend to 3 miles offshore along the Rhode Island coast) so classified in the SAMP.
Other offshore wind activities are moving forward within the SAMP. In December 2010, the federal agency Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), published a Request for Interest (RFI) for commercial leasing for wind power in federal waters of the SAMP approximately 12 miles east of Block Island [Docket No. BOEM–2010–0063]. BOEMRE received 11 indications of interest from 10 parties wishing to obtain a commercial lease for a wind energy project.
While the RFI was not for any lease blocks closer than 12 miles from Block Island, it is important to continually monitor offshore wind energy applications to the State of Rhode Island and lease activities of the federal government.
What does all this mean? It means that we need to be aware of the decisions that are being made that affect our island and let your representatives know how you feel. It means that we need to demand that our town representatives be informed, be vigilant, provide clear and comprehensive information to all of us, and most of all to speak up on our behalf to those in the State of Rhode Island and federal governments who are pulling the strings that affect our future.
30 September 2011
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