On April 3, at a workshop, the Ocean Special Area Management Plan Subcommittee of the Coastal Resources Management Council accepted the staff report on the Deepwater Wind Block Island proposal.
This report served as the basis for three public hearings, the last on Feb. 27, on Deepwater Wind’s proposal. Anne Livingston, chairwoman of this subcommittee, ruled at the start that any comments on costs or economics were inadmissible at these hearings. Speakers opposed to the proposal were halted if they spoke the words “price” or “cost.”
Our citizens group, Deepwater Resistance, believes this wind farm proposal is without a doubt the most far-reaching matter ever to come before the CRMC. It is truly precedent-setting in many ways. It hurts virtually every resident and business in Rhode Island. Yet, the staff report reveals signs of having been cobbled together rather hurriedly in the five-week period from the last hearing to the workshop. Much testimony was simply ignored.
The whole concept of having a meaningful discussion of costs was thrown out the window. It was not merely an issue of discrimination against those who had factual information on renewable energy costs, but it also appears to go against the fundamental policies enunciated within the Ocean Special Area Management Plan (O-SAMP) document.
I have reviewed the O-SAMP and found eight specific references to social and economic factors as required for the CRMC’s evaluation. Four references explicitly require consideration of the impact on the State of Rhode Island as a whole. These most pertinent sections are as follows.
Section 800 Introduction states:
“One of the objectives of the Ocean SAMP is to encourage marine-based economic development that considers the aspirations of local communities, and is consistent with and complementary to the state’s overall economic development, social and environmental needs and goals.
“Obtaining a portion of Rhode Island’s energy from renewable sources has been a central theme in the recent energy policies of the state. The justification behind renewable energy development in Rhode Island includes: diversifying the energy sources supplying electricity consumed in the state; stabilizing long-term energy prices; enhancing environmental quality, including the reduction of air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions; reducing the state’s reliance on fossil fuels; and creating jobs in Rhode Island in the renewable energy sector. Renewable energy resources offshore have the greatest potential for utility-scale development to meet Rhode Island’s renewable energy goals. The Ocean SAMP area has the potential to provide sites for those resources, which is addressed in this chapter, along with a discussion of the potential effects renewable energy development may have on the economics of Rhode Island, natural resources, and existing uses of the Ocean SAMP area.”
Section 860.1 General Policies states:
“The Council supports offshore development in the Ocean SAMP area that is consistent with the Ocean SAMP goals which are to:
•Foster a properly functioning ecosystem that can be both ecologically effective and economically beneficial;
•Promote and enhance existing uses; and
•Encourage marine-based economic development that considers the aspirations of local communities and is consistent and complementary to the state’s overall economic development needs and goals.”
These excerpts from the O-SAMP unequivocally refute the stipulation that economics should be excluded from testimony at public hearings. To disqualify an entire category of testimony at the outset is beyond the pale.
Let me quote some of my stated testimony at the hearing: “Six [megawatt] turbines are untried technology. Alstom, the French builder, has one such operating turbine [worldwide] as of December 2013. Let’s have one year of experience with this design.”
From an engineering viewpoint, it would have been prudent to stipulate in the staff report that one year of operating data with this design should be available before approval can be granted. Also overlooked in the report is that Alstom guarantees these units for only 15 years, not the 20 that Deepwater had been anticipating – a significant change from Deepwater’s previous operating assumptions. Deepwater needs to rewrite portions of its environmental reports.
This Deepwater proposal is literally new territory. It requires the most scrutiny that the staff and the council have ever given to an application. While public testimony should have raised red flags, the proposal appears to be positioned for fast-track approval by the CRMC without due diligence.
We ask the full council to require Deepwater to revise its environmental report to include one year of actual turbine operating data for its (and the public’s) review; to hold new hearings covering this turbine’s operating performance and pertinent economic testimony; to weigh adequately local communities’ aspirations; and to rewrite the staff report with adequate consideration given to all public testimony, none of which has been satisfactorily examined.
Robert Shields, of Narragansett, is chairman of Deepwater Resistance.
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