Cape Wind foe files another legal challenge
Says wind farm’s deal with NStar violates federal laws
Cape Wind’s chief opponent on Tuesday filed another lawsuit against the proposed offshore wind farm, alleging the project’s power contract with a Massachusetts electric utility violates federal laws.
The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, which already has several legal challenges to the wind farm pending in federal courts in Washington, filed its latest lawsuit in US District Court in Massachusetts. The lawsuit names various Patrick administration officials, Cape Wind, and NStar as defendants.
The complaint alleges the state used the leverage of a merger bid between Northeast Utilities and NStar to coerce NStar into buying 27.5 percent of Cape Wind’s expected power output. The lawsuit alleges the NStar deal violates federal laws by steering a power contract to a specific in-state company and by usurping the authority of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to regulate wholesale electricity sales.
A major theme of the complaint is that NStar’s power purchase agreement with Cape Wind is too expensive. The lawsuit claims the Cape Wind power will cost Massachusetts ratepayers approximately $1.8 billion more over the 15-year life of the contract than if NStar had purchased cheaper land-based wind energy. The complaint also alleges that NStar’s purchase price for Cape Wind power at the time the deal was negotiated was 137 percent higher than the price of conventional power.
Audra Parker, who runs the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, said the new lawsuit is different in several respects from a previous lawsuit focused on a similar Cape Wind power contract with National Grid. She also noted that recent federal court decisions in Maryland and New Jersey found that state efforts to direct local utilities to sign long-term power contracts were unconstitutional.NStar issued the following statement: “Although the complaint names NSTAR, it does not claim that the company engaged in any unlawful actions. The plaintiffs claim that the state agencies’ actions were preempted by federal law. This complaint is similar to others that have been filed in recent months in several other states, each challenging state agencies’ ability to require electric distribution companies to enter into certain types of power contracts. NSTAR Electric is reviewing the complaint and will abide by any lawful orders or decisions issued by the court in this case.”
Patrick administration officials declined comment.