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.

Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers described the complaint as “frivolous” and “with no merit.” He said the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound “was unsuccessful in challenging a nearly identical power contract between Cape Wind and National Grid and they will fail again here. After careful review, the Department of Public Utilities found that Cape Wind was ‘cost effective’ by providing unique benefits that exceeded the cost of its 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.

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Bruce Mohl

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About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

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.