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Residents push for benefits as Mayflower Wind continues to seek Portsmouth access 

Credit:  Mayflower Wind proposal leads Portsmouth residents to seek benefits | Zane Wolfang | Newport Daily News | Aug. 11, 2022 | www.newportri.com ~~

PORTSMOUTH – Mayflower Wind officials are continuing the push to run transmission cables across Portsmouth, and now residents are suggesting the town is in a position to benefit from the situation.

Mayflower Wind on Tuesday held a public engagement session with municipal stakeholders as its preliminary hearing with the state Energy Facility Siting Board approaches, sending transmission development manager Lawrence Mott and general counsel Daniel Hubbard to the Portsmouth Town Council meeting to deliver a presentation and hear questions and comments from the council and residents.

Many council members and residents asked questions and voiced concerns about the project, and while no immediate action was taken after discussion due to the structure of the meeting agenda, council member Keith Hamilton indicated he would introduce a resolution at the council’s next meeting on Aug. 22 that would “allow the administration and the council the ability to hire any experts and/or legal advice they would need in the future, and also to request certain things of the Energy Facility Siting Board in the future.”

Council President Kevin Aguiar also indicated the town of Portsmouth had filed on July 11 a notice of intervention with the state EFSB, which grants the town “intervenor status” at Mayflower’s final hearing. The preliminary hearing, scheduled for Aug. 18, allows for public observation, but not public comment.

Portsmouth citizens ask: What’s in it for us?

Peter Roberts, a Portsmouth resident who said he has worked on infrastructure projects requiring similar cables and drilling techniques in the past, claimed there should be no problem with routing the cable underwater the entire way to Somerset, Massachusetts, going through the Sakonnet basin and under the Sakonnet River Bridge, rather than routing the cable across multiple wetlands in the Island Park area.

Mott indicated the company was not actively exploring that route as an option at present, and clarified the company’s preference to go across Island Park was not associated with financial savings, but with concerns about boat traffic, debris from the old stone bridge, and strong tidal flow through the basin.

Ben Furriel of Gideon Lawton Lane was one of several residents who pointed out Portsmouth was in a potentially strong bargaining position, since Mayflower wants to use Portsmouth for a project that does not deliver immediate benefit to the town.

He suggested the town put together a timeline as a precursor to well-coordinated engagement with the proposal, and posited the notion of Mayflower footing the bill for local STEM programming or some other sort of direct benefit.

Hamilton went further, suggesting the town oppose the installation of any cables until Mayflower and its corporate backers work with Portsmouth to install a second LNG pipeline on the north end of Aquidneck Island.

Hamilton was worried about the possibility of the island’s existing LNG line being compromised by the installation, or future maintenance of the proposed transmission cables, referencing a 2019 gas outage that left nearly 7,500 National Grid customers without heat for a week in January.

There is some precedent in the surrounding region for offshore wind companies to pay municipalities for far more than the cost of a science education program in order to gain access to a landing for transmission cables.

In Massachusetts, Avangrid Renewables recently signed a deal to pay the town of Barnstable $16 million over a 25-year period in addition to commercial taxes in order to land transmission cables from the same tract of leases where Mayflower’s turbines will be built.

In New York, Deepwater Wind South Fork LLC, whose parent companies are Ørsted and Eversource Energy, will pay the town of East Hampton $870,000 each year for 25 years, including a 2% increase after the first year. The total comes to $28.9 million, including $100,000 in geotechnical access and license fees already paid to the town.

According to a local report, the payment is nearly quadruple the amount the developer first offered the town – $8 million – when discussions first began. The developer also will have to pay town property taxes on its onshore infrastructure, estimated to bring in an additional $4 million over the life of the project.

Hubbard, Mayflower’s lawyer, did indicate to the council the company would be paying tax directly on its installations in Portsmouth and confirmed the company’s willingness to engage directly with the town administration to arrive at an equitable arrangement.

Little Compton and Middletown hire law firm, seek intervenor status

While Portsmouth was able to immediately file a notice of intervention as a directly affected party, both Little Compton and Middletown have filed motions to intervene. Mayflower Wind has filed objections to each of these, on the grounds the cables do not make landfall in either town and the waters they run through as they enter the Sakonnet from the Atlantic Ocean are controlled by the state and regulated by state agencies.

In an early sign of Mayflower Wind’s commitment to positively impacting the Rhode Island economy, the company hired local law firm Partridge, Snow and Hahn to file its objections to Middletown and Little Compton’s notices.

The EFSB requested Middletown and Little Compton “file memoranda of law to explain their respective positions with more specificity and detail, addressing how each of the interests of the Towns identified in their respective motions to intervene may be directly and materially affected.”

While each town submitted a list of concerns related to their decision to seek a seat at the table, the EFSB requested they clarify why those concerns would not be adequately protected by the DEM and CRMC, the state agencies which regulate and protect Rhode Island’s waters and coastal communities.

Each town filed the requested memoranda, and the EFSB will make a determination after listening to arguments at the preliminary hearing as to whether or not either municipality will be granted intervenor status.

Both towns have also enlisted the services of Desautel Law, a local firm specializing in environmental law, to represent their interests in the Mayflower Wind proposal before the EFSB. Tiverton, in a town meeting held Tuesday considered hiring a lawyer as well, but decided to table the discussion and wait to see how the public process shakes out.

Mayflower will be conducting a “digital open house” on Aug. 16 at 6:30 p.m. to present the project to town residents, and the public hearing at the EFSB’s facility in Warwick on the morning of Thursday, Aug. 18 will be open to the public and will be streamed live from the EFSB website.

Source:  Mayflower Wind proposal leads Portsmouth residents to seek benefits | Zane Wolfang | Newport Daily News | Aug. 11, 2022 | www.newportri.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial educational effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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