Cape and Islands legislators from both parties were hardly heartbroken last week seeing National Grid and Northeast Utilities deal a potentially fatal blow to Cape Wind.
Stepping off the House floor Wednesday, where outgoing Gov. Deval Patrick – a champion of the proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm – had sworn her in, Peake said she hoped the utility companies’ decisions to terminate power-purchasing contracts would stave off higher electricity rates.
“I think it’s pretty interesting, because at least I know for the National Grid deal, people on Nantucket weren’t so happy because they were going to see their rates go up. So I hope what this means is that it puts a stop to that and we see a leveling of electric rates,” said Peake, a Provincetown Democrat who represents the Lower Cape.
Although a supporter of renewable energy, Peake said she has always been “mixed” on Cape Wind. Between the controversial permitting and the drawn-out legal challenge, “the process has been tenuous at best,” she said.
“It’s somewhat remarkable that the wheels haven’t fallen off sooner with all the permitting delays,” Peake said, adding, “I thought the process stunk, quite honestly.”
Freshman state Rep. Tim Whelan, a Brewster Republican, also welcomed the news, but said the courts would ultimately decide whether the utilities’ decisions sink the project. Cape Wind has disputed the terminations of the contract, invoking the so-called “force majeure” clause to argue that ongoing legal challenges have prevented the project from meeting financing deadlines and other milestones.
A decision against Cape Wind would surely be a “death blow,” said Whelan, a retired state police sergeant.
“I welcome the news,” he said.
“In addition to my concerns for the ecology of the area, as a ratepayer myself for NStar, I welcome the news.”
For state Rep. Brian Mannal, it was the rare headline that reflected kindly on NStar, a subsidiary of Northeast Utilities that has drawn criticism on the Cape for using herbicides to control unwanted vegetation in power line rights-of-way.
“I applaud NStar and National Grid,” Mannal said. “It’s one of the few times I can remember in the last two years that I read the news, heard about something they were doing and and was genuinely pleased with it.”
Mannal suggested Joint Base Cape Cod as a superior site and said he would prefer to see solar energy embraced on the Cape.
A lawyer, Mannal said the decisions amount to a “huge blow” since National Grid and NStar had agreed to buy 50 percent and 27.5 percent of Cape Wind’s output, respectively.
“I don’t think it’s feasible. I think their financing will fall through if they don’t have a place to sell their energy,” he said. “It seems to be dead in the water.”
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