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Violet: Deepwater Wind should be deep-sixed

Rhode Island continues to look like a rube. Why else would Deepwater Wind request a fee waiver of $700,000 from the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) for the review of this project before the council? If you think this project is only about Block Island with its esthetics being harmed, you are wrong.

Rhode Island businesses and rate-payers will end up paying $493 million more for electricity than they would without this wind farm. (The state commission projected $521 million additional dollars on top of rates.) Don’t take my word for it. National Grid, which will buy this energy, has conservatively estimated that’s how much additionally it will need to collect from you for this. You are on the hook no matter where you live in the state if your electricity comes from National Grid.

The Deepwater Wind proposal was so bad that the R.I. Public Utility Commission (PUC) shot it down because of its excessive costs to rate-payers. Neither the company nor the state Economic Development Commission (EDC) provided any economic data to show that the state would have any so-called “first mover” benefits by being first in the region with a wind farm. During testimony before the PUC, Deepwater Wind acknowledged only six permanent jobs with 35 to 50 temporary positions, but the hiring would be workers from the Gulf States who have worked on turbines in the water. The entity also conceded that it expected the principal components to be manufactured outside of the state because of a dearth of manufacturing expertise here.

Deepwater Wind was the second project championed by then-Gov. Don Carcieri, the architect of the 38 Studios fiasco. This also was a no-bid contract awarded to the company. Its CEO was the governor’s former chief of staff who lobbied the governor to approve the project. Mr. Carcieri then arm-twisted his appointees on the EDC to rubber-stamp his selection. Just like 38 Studios, no financial or economic development studies were done by EDC. In effect, the state is being asked to subsidize this project by waiving the fee to CRMC, a quasi-public agency. Fees support the function of that agency so taxpayers would have to pony-up to meet its budget shortfall.

This crony capitalism will hurt the state in the long run as much if not more than 38 Studios. During the Carcieri administration as well as now, the projections showed that Deepwater Wind would have the highest price per kilowatt hour for wind energy-generated projects in the entire United States. That’s quite an advertisement to bring companies to the state.

For all these reasons and more, the PUC vetoed the project only to be overruled by the legislature who allowed it to proceed without any countervailing arguments to those of the PUC. Sounds again like Studios 38, except this time rate-payers will be tagged at least $493 million more to subsidize this foolishness.

I support wind power and alternate energies, but they must be commercially feasible. I also consider myself an environmentalist from the days I was the first attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation. I know a “pig in a poke” when I see one. This project is “oinking.”

Deepwater Wind should be deep-sixed. After all, it apparently can’t even fund its application fees. Just imagine if something really goes wrong.