Cape Wind developer not giving up
‘We have just begun to fight’
CAPE WIND DEVELOPER Jim Gordon spoke at a rally on behalf of Cape Wind on Saturday and insisted his 14-year quest for a wind farm in Nantucket Sound is not over.
“We’re not giving up. We have just begun to fight,” Gordon shouted to the delight of several hundred people of all ages who attended the rally outside the Park Street T station. The crowd started chanting “Thank you, Jim.”
Gordon faces an uphill fight. Cape Wind missed two key deadlines on the project at the end of last year and National Grid and Eversource Energy (formerly NStar) cited those lapses in terminating their contracts to purchase roughly three-quarters of the wind farm’s power output. Without those contracts, Cape Wind is dead.
Gordon said he wants to amicably work with the utilities to reinstate the contracts, but his description of how those contracts were terminated in the first place doesn’t inspire much optimism. Cape Wind had to complete financing and begin construction on the project by Dec. 31 or pay deposits of more than $1 million to the two utilities to extend the terms of the contract. Gordon didn’t pay the deposits and instead asked for more time by explaining to the utilities that the delays were being caused by lawsuits brought by the project’s opponents, who have been financed primarily by William Koch, a billionaire businessman who owns summer homes in Osterville.
Cape Wind sought a meeting with the two utilities in December before the contract deadlines, but was told to reschedule for after the holidays. Gordon said he had a phone conversation with utility executives on Jan. 5 where he explained the situation. The next day, at 6:30 at night, Cape Wind learned the utilities were terminating the contracts from reporters calling to ask for comment. “We were never notified,” Gordon said.
The Cape Wind executive said more than 26 lawsuits have been filed against Cape Wind over the years. He said the relentless litigation triggered the power purchase contract’s force majeure clause, which effectively suspends the terms of the contract if something beyond the control of the parties makes it impossible to comply. Force majeure clauses typically cover so-called acts of God, such as hurricanes or floods, not lawsuits.
“This project would be up and running in Horseshoe Shoals if it weren’t for these lawsuits,” he said. He added that nothing has really changed. Cape Wind, he said, is needed for the state to meet its renewable energy and climate goals and the wind farm remains popular. “The vast majority of citizens in Massachusetts want this project built. Why wouldn’t they?” he asked.
Gordon told reporters after his talk that he wants to work amicably with the utilities to restore the contracts instead of going to court. He also said he needs both contracts reinstated.
A coalition of environmental groups gathered 95,000 signatures in support of Cape Wind. The groups believe the utility executive most likely to listen to their pleas on Cape Wind is Marcy Reed, president of National Grid Massachusetts. Grid voluntarily signed a contract to purchase half of Cape Wind’s power output and is a big supporter of initiatives to combat climate change. A spokesman for Grid could not be reached for comment on Saturday.
Eversource, headed by CEO Tom May, is unlikely to be cooperative. May only agreed to buy a quarter of Cape Wind’s power output to gain the support of the Patrick administration for a merger the company was seeking. May is a member of a business group that has voiced strong concerns about the high price of Cape Wind power.
The political landscape on Beacon Hill has also changed, with former Democratic governor Deval Patrick, who was Cape Wind’s biggest political champion, being replaced by Republican Charlie Baker, who ran for office in 2010 calling the power purchase contracts a “sweetheart deal.” During last year’s campaign, he called Cape Wind a“done deal.”
Gordon gave no indication on Saturday how he plans to overcome the massive obstacles in front of him. He said he spent most of January and February considering his options and now he plans to seek a meeting with the utility executives. “Stay tuned,” he said.