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Bristol pulls out of energy consortium

Bristol has pulled out of the East Bay Energy Consortium, voting 3-1 at the Oct. 10 Town Council meeting to back away from renewable energy group, reports eastbayri.com.

Nine communities began the consortium in 2009 to explore the feasibility of combining resources across the East Bay munisipalities to invest in renewable energy. The group got a boost ear;ier in the year when the state Senate approved it as a non-profit governmental entity, but the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee determined it should be “held for further study,” which essentially killed the bill.

Bristol Councilor Halsey Herreshoff proposed withdrawing from the group, gaining support from Councilors David Barboza and Antonio Teixeira. Councilor Mary Parella cast the lone vote against withdrawal. Council Chairman Kenneth Marshall, who originally proposed joining the consortium, was absent.

The energy consortium has been controversial since its inception, with doubts about the group heightened after 38 Studios defaulted on a $75 million loan to the Economic Development Corporation. The bill initially proposed the Consortium would be a subsidiary of the EDC, which raised concerns that if it defaulted on its loans, Rhode Island taxpayers would be held liable once again. Sen. Louis DiPalma, who introduced the bill in the Senate, said the language was changed so that the consortium would be a stand-alone entity and would be responsible for its own debts.

Still, doubts remained. Gov. Lincoln Chafee opposed the bill, telling legisla=tors in a letter, “There is language in the legislation that I cannot support, including creating EBEC as a subsidiary of the Economic Development Corporation and the potential financial exposure the State would be Subject to regarding the bond financing of this project.”

DiPalma said the letter was probably a “contributing factor” in the decision to remove the EBEC’s testimony from a hearing before the House committee.

Council Chairman Marshall, who was away on business the night of the council meeting, said he would have voted against withdrawal, eastbayri.com reported.