Wind farm case: CLF says it has the standing to appeal

Mon, 03/21/2011 - 4:00am

03/19/11 - The Conservation Law Foundation last week filed papers with the state Supreme Court arguing that it should bring its appeal of the Public Utility Commission’s approval of the Block Island wind farm power contract before the court.

CLF was a party to a consolidated appeal of the contract brought by former state Attorney General Patrick Lynch as well as industrial concerns Toray Plastics and Polytop Corp.

Newly elected Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, however, recently ended that office’s role in the action.

As a result, on February 21, the state Supreme Court ordered the remaining parties to prove their standing before allowing the appeal to go forward.

It set a date of April 6 for oral arguments on the matter.

The remaining groups argue that the state Legislature overstepped its constitutional authority when it rewrote a law governing renewable energy contracts in the wake of the PUC’s initial rejection of a contract reached between developer Deepwater Wind and National Grid for the Block Island project.

Toray and Polytop further argue that the contract, which would call on state electricity customers to pay more that $400 million in above-market costs during the 20-year life of the contract, was not “commercially reasonable” one of the law’s criteria.

CLF makes a number of arguments to support its standing.

It argues that as a supporter of wind power and renewable energy, it must be allowed to point out the deficiencies in the state law and to advocate for a better environment for the public at large.

It further argues that if it is denied standing, the court will have denied any review of a contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

“Critically, denying standing to CLF in this case would mean that the PUC’s August 16, 2010, decision will stand completely unreviewed. The Court would be announcing a precedent that the only parties that have standing to appeal a PUC decision approving a renewable energy contract are those that signed the contract: the developer and the utility parties that would never appeal a favorable decision.”

CLF attorney Jerry Elmer said in a prepared statement, “If CLF and others are denied standing in this case, it will have the effect of shutting down the process for reviewing and appealing the PUC’s decisions on renewable energy contracts, not just in this case, but potentially on all future contracts as well.”

Tricia K. Jedele, director of CLF Rhode Island, echoed Elmer’s sentiments. “The need for a fair and open process to ensure that renewable energy development is done right in Rhode Island is at the heart of CLF’s case. That fair and open process begins with a finding by the Court that CLF has standing to pursue this appeal on behalf of its members and in the interest of Rhode Island’s clean energy future, which is in the public interest.”