BOSTON – The decisions of two utilities to pull their financing commitments for the Cape Wind project represent a “near-fatal blow” to the offshore energy project, according to its opponents, although project officials claim the moves by Northeast Utilities and National Grid are invalid.
Gov. Deval Patrick, a longtime proponent of the project, said Wednesday that he learned Tuesday night of the decision by the two utilities to terminate their power purchase agreements.
“We’ve done everything as a state government to get them over the regulatory lines, and I’ve said before and say again, after that it’s up to the market and up to the leadership of the project and their partners to get it done,” Patrick said.
Asked whether the project could survive, Patrick said, “I don’t know.”
“They’ve had any number of setbacks, the most significant of which has been the perpetual litigation for the past, more than 10 years,” he said.
A leading opponent of the project, Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound President and CEO Audra Parker called for Cape Wind’s lease to be revoked and for Nantucket Sound to be named a national marine sanctuary “so that is protected from future development and preserved for its rightful owners – the citizens of the United States.”
“The decision by NStar and National Grid to end their contracts with Cape Wind is a fatal or near-fatal blow to this expensive and outdated project. While it’s very bad news for Cape Wind, it is very good news for ratepayers who will save billions of dollars in electric bills,” Parker said in a statement.
Cape Wind officials have been struggling for years to secure necessary permits, overcome legal challenges, and assemble financing for its plan to plant wind turbines in the sound to generate renewable energy.
With backing from Patrick, the project has been tethered to state investments in a New Bedford marine terminal and was once hailed by former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
In April 2010, Salazar approved the 130-turbine, 25-square-mile wind farm, calling it “the final decision of the United States of America.” At a Statehouse event with Salazar, Patrick said he expected project construction to begin “within a year.”
Sen. Benjamin Downing, a Pittsfield Democrat who last session co-chaired the Energy Committee, called the news “disappointing.”
“Certainly, we’re going to be taking on energy issues this session. I hope to be a part of that debate no matter what position I’m in, but it’s certainly something that’s going to require us to reassess how the utilities meet their renewable portfolio standard goals and how we jumpstart the off-shore wind industry in Massachusetts and in New England as a whole,” Downing said.
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