Thursday, May 13, 2010

Vote on Deepwater-PUC bill is postponed

Providence Business News

Published online May 13, 2010


Vote on Deepwater-PUC bill is postponed

By Chris Barrett
PBN Staff Writer

PROVIDENCE – A Senate committee has called off a hearing originally scheduled for Thursday when it was expected the panel would vote on a bill that could kickstart development of a proposed offshore wind farm.

“The bill just isn’t ready,” Senate Environment and Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski, D-South Kingstown, told Providence Business News on Thursday afternoon. A new date for the hearing has not been scheduled yet, she said.

Sosnowski, who introduced the bill, said lawmakers and their staffers were still drafting amendments to the bill, which would allow four state agencies – instead of the R.I. Public Utilities Commission – to sign off on a power-purchase agreement between wind farm developer Deepwater Wind LLC and National Grid Plc.

The PUC rejected a draft contract between the two sides in March after commissioners decided the projected price of electricity from the project – 24.4 cents a kilowatt-hour – was too high.

The legislation to bypass the PUC has the backing of Gov. Donald L. Carcieri, who has testified before committees in both chambers of the General Assembly to express his support for the measure.

Not everyone supports the bill, however. Two good-government groups – Common Cause and Operation Clean Government – have come out against it, calling the bill an “unprecedented change in established process,” and R.I. Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch has repeatedly urged the General Assembly to reject the measure.

Despite the opposition, Sosnowski said the bill would “definitely” move forward in her committee.

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