PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The Rhode Island Republican Party has called for a provision in the House budget proposal that could benefit a politically connected wind power developer to be removed.
The statement from state GOP chairman Brandon S. Bell on Monday followed the publication of a Providence Journal investigation that reported on language inserted into the spending plan released last week that could reverse a decision made by the state Public Utilities Commission and force electric rate payers to pay more to connect renewable energy projects to the power grid.
Critics of the provision say it would in particular help North Kingstown-based Wind Energy Development, which owns a wind turbine in North Kingstown, has almost finished the construction of a 10-turbine wind farm in Coventry, and is also replacing a broken wind turbine at Portsmouth High School.
Mark DePasquale, CEO of the company, and his employees have made tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to state government leaders in recent years. DePasquale and his representatives have long complained that interconnection costs for the company’s wind turbines have been too high and that utility National Grid, which owns the power infrastructure in Rhode Island, should pay a greater share. Those costs would be passed on to electric rate payers.
“The entire section of the budget designed to benefit Wind Energy Development must be removed … or the whiff of corruption surrounding the State House will only grow stronger,” Bell said in the statement.
In a separate statement, Rep. Patricia Morgan, R-West Warwick, raised concerns that DePasquale had been lobbying the General Assembly without registering as a lobbyist.
Some House Democrats have also taken issue with the provision, which contains language that is identical to failed legislation introduced by Rep. John Carnevale, D-Providence, who is vice chairman of the House Finance Committee. They say that it does not belong in the budget after failing to win approval as legislation.
Carnevale could not be reached after repeated attempts on Sunday. When contacted Monday, he told a Journal reporter he would call back but did not.
Rep. Aaron Regunberg, D-Providence, a co-sponsor of the legislation, which governs interconnection costs for renewable energy, maintained that it is “good policy.”
“If we want the environmental, economic and rate payer benefits of increased local renewable energy generation, we need to streamline the process of interconnection,” Regunberg said in an email. “This legislation levels the playing field for renewable energy, and I believe anyone who wants to see an expansion of clean energy in Rhode Island should support it.”
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