An artist's rendering of what the turbines would look like in the ocean off Cape Wind.

Cape Wind Battle Continues as Foes File New Lawsuit

Gale Courey Toensing
2/18/14

Longtime opponents of Cape Wind’s controversial $2.6 billion industrial wind energy proposal off the coast of Cape Cod have filed a new lawsuit, challenging the developer’s state-approved no-bid contract to sell its energy at three times the price of competing out-of-state green energy companies.

The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, the umbrella group for dozens of Cape Wind opponents including the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe on Cape Cod and the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe on Martha’s Vineyard, filed the lawsuit in late January in U.S. District Court in Boston against Massachusetts state regulators, energy company NSTAR and Cape Wind. The lawsuit alleges that state regulators’ approval of the contract between Cape Wind and NSTAR violated federal law in two ways. First, by pressuring NSTAR to buy power from the in-state Cape Wind the regulators discriminated against out-of-state power companies with lower electricity costs, the suit alleges. Second, they exceeded their authority by setting wholesale rates for the contract, an action reserved for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Audra Parker, the president and CEO of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, said the organization is confident the suit will succeed.

“It is yet another example of the deficiencies characterizing state and federal decisions that have been made in favor of Cape Wind,” Parker said.

She pointed to recent court decisions in New Jersey and Maryland that not only found state programs directing utilities to sign long-term contracts to be unconstitutional but also raised questions regarding the authority of states in general to direct utilities to purchase wholesale energy under specific state mandates.

“Our case alleges that NSTAR was coerced into signing a no-bid contract that violates federal law, discriminates against affordable green power producers from out of state and burdens small businesses and municipalities with unnecessarily high electricity costs,” Parker said. “The state’s actions on the Cape Wind contract are even more disturbing given the increasing availability of alternative energy sources available at a fraction of the price of Cape Wind.”

This latest lawsuit is one of several still-pending legal challenges to the Cape Wind project, which proposes erecting 130 turbines, each towering 440 feet above the water across a 25-square mile area between Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Cape Wind has battled its opponents since it was first proposed in 2001. The project has been touted by the Obama administration as America’s first offshore wind farm and enthusiastically supported by Massachusetts state government.

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