Thank you for holding this public hearing. Please accept this as testimony on the Deepwater Wind applications before the Corps of Engineers, CRMC and DEM. I would appreciate your reading this into the record.
After more than three years of research, analysis, and personal participation in public processes specifically associated with Deepwater, it is very challenging to provide any kind of brief, meaningful and factual commentary on an application that consists of over 300 megabytes or seven 3-inch binders. For each chapter in the application, there is easily one potential issue for the island.
It is time for our newly constituted council to make informed decisions based on the facts. Unfortunately, staff again has not provided the council with substantive information or a suggested framework suitable for deliberation and decision-making. There have been no briefing papers on Deepwater. The only information that the town is in possession of are documents created by Deepwater to advance their project or recollections of conversations and promises from a revolving door of more than four CEOs/COOs over the past three years.
First and foremost, facts should inform the council’s comments on behalf of all of us who call Block Island our home, regardless of how much time they spend on island. The challenge as I see it is that it is impossible in one three-hour meeting to make up for three years of doing little to gather independent information and analysis, to provide information to the public, and to solicit input from diverse interests on the island.
Upon reflection, my first exposure to the possibilities of an offshore windfarm occurred in June 2009, when a Danish scientist spoke at St. Andrew Parish Center. Afterwards, there was a setup so that we could see what one of the Danish wind turbines, 200 feet shorter than DWW’s at 650 feet, looked like at 8, 10, 12 and 15 miles. Most important was that absolutely no mention was made of a windfarm 2.6 miles off the bluffs.
It was several weeks later in July that Block Islanders were “given notice” when barges appeared close to shore. The town never initiated a single meeting to inform the public about Deepwater. And that’s the way it has been. There has never been any independent analysis done by town staff or any consultant on a myriad of issues and potential impacts on behalf of the town. The only consultants used by the town were paid for by Deepwater Wind. There has been no town initiated effort to solicit public input such as an advisory ballot. Although surveys have been done by BIRA and the B.I. Land Trust, either misleading information and photos were presented or questions that would lead to pre-determined answers in support of offshore wind were used. The leadership of both bodies at the time of the surveys were vocal proponents of Deepwater Wind.
We all know that many people saw Deepwater as the only answer to getting a cable to the mainland that would assure reliable and less expensive electricity as well as providing consistent internet access. But the fact is that when Deepwater was unanimously denied by the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission on March 30, 2010, the PUC stated that Block Island was long overdue for a cable. The PUC stated that they were committed to opening up a docket specifically for a Block Island cable and distribution service that would be paid for by all ratepayers in the state. The town leadership never informed the public of that reality, chose to undermine that effort and continued the rhetoric of a cable being financially impossible for Block Island.
Although the Electric Utilities Task Group has devoted much time to this project, its majority has been very vocal DWW proponents and have allowed their biases to totally ignore the PUC’s offer of a cable in 2010 at the annual expense of $2 million for a total of $6 million by island ratepayers thus far.
The way I see it, the council has very few facts by which to make any substantive comments. There is one fact that we all can agree upon and applaud – the reduction of burning diesel on the island for island electricity. However, we have assumed that BIPCo will maintain its generators for island backup solely… has any thought been given to BIPCo providing backup to the mainland?
Then there is opinion presented as fact. One popular opinion is that Deepwater will result in the island being totally green. That is not the case. The fact is that most of the electricity used on Block Island will not be from wind power. Ratepayers can enroll in the GreenUp program where they choose how much of their electricity they would like to come from renewables and then they pay a premium commensurate with what amount they have designated.
And what other issues might occur if Deepwater proceeds? What is the council’s individual and collective knowledge of the Renewable Energy Zone, the only one designated in all of Rhode Island’s ocean waters, that wraps around the island from southeast Block Island all the way to Southwest Point? It appears that 40 or more turbines can be constructed within three miles of the island’s coastline.
Based on the absence of any town comprehensive project analysis and public information process, plus the well-documented corrupted state public processes that resulted in DWW’s approval, I don’t believe that the council is in any position to comment on the application other than to say there are a great many issues for Block Island, some known and some unknown – but all needing to be identified and analyzed for impact both probable and possible. Perhaps the best and most responsible approach is to ask for an Environmental Impact Statement to be completed.
This letter was sent to the Town Council and copied to the Times
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