PUC approves Power Purchase Agreement for Block Island Sound wind farm

Earlier today in Rhode Island, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved the Deepwater Wind/National Grid Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for the construction of an eight-turbine wind farm in Block Island Sound, denying CLF’s Motion to Dismiss.

Here’s what CLF’s Rhode Island Advocacy Center Director Tricia Jedele had to say about the decision:

Today’s ruling was inevitable, a result dictated by the legislature in a law defined so narrowly that it could have only one outcome. Unchallenged, this law and the accompanying PUC decision set precedent that will only undermine the efforts to build a future for renewable energy in Rhode Island. The failure to allow the PUC any discretion in its decision-making is the very basis of CLF’s Separation of Powers argument, which we are likely to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Deepwater Wind project in Block Island Sound first met with problems in April 2010 when its Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with National Grid was rejected by the PUC on the grounds that it was not commercially reasonable. Rather than appeal the decision, Deepwater, with the support of the Governor and the legislature, sought to do an end run around the review process and rewrite the rules to produce a different outcome the second time around. CLF, a longtime champion of renewable energy done right, was one of the first to challenge the moves as unlawful, unfair and a terrible precedent. CLF contended that the amended law was designed to favor one project and one developer, creating an unlevel playing field that would make it impossible for developers to compete successfully for future projects.

“Renewable energy is too important to this state to do it in a way that could threaten its chances for success,” Jedele said at the time.

In July, in advance of a second review of the PPA required under the amended law, CLF filed a Motion to Dismiss, arguing that the PUC should not review the amended Power Purchase Agreement because the law violates the Constitutional doctrine of separation of powers, and the provision which requires that “all laws be made for the good of the whole.” CLF also argued that even if the PUC were to proceed, it could not review the PPA because the doctrine of res judicata bars litigation of a claim that has already been litigated between the same parties.

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