Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound Files Suit Against State
By: Michael C. Bailey
The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound continued its legal assault on Cape Wind, last week filing a lawsuit hoping to reveal alleged behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing between the wind farm developers and the Patrick Administration.
The suit, filed last Friday in Barnstable Superior Court, seeks to force the state to release documents detailing, according to the Alliance, “coordination among Cape Wind, National Grid and the state’s top political officials to arrange a no-bid contract between Cape Wind and National Grid.”
The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities is currently reviewing a proposed long-term power purchase agreement between Cape Wind and National Grid. The two sides entered into the agreement back in May, and that contract has since undergone review by the Massachusetts Attorney Generals’ Office and the DPU.
According to information provide by the Alliance, it first requested the information on April 29, 2010. Under the Massachusetts Public Records Law the state was supposed to provide the information within 10 business days, but as of last week had failed to honor the request.
“Governor (Deval L.) Patrick’s office has sent a clear message that it will continue to deny the public its right to documents related to the relationship between Cape Wind, National Grid and top state officials,” Audra Parker, president and CEO of the Alliance said in a press release. “Patrick and his administration will go to great lengths to rush the project to approval and will use delay and false excuses to avoid legally required disclosure.”
Almost six months after initial requests were made under the Massachusetts Public Records Law, the Patrick administration continues to delay the release of these documents.
“Governor Patrick’s office has sent a clear message that it will continue to deny the public its right to documents related to the relationship between Cape Wind, National Grid and top state officials,” said Audra Parker, president and CEO of The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound. “Patrick and his administration will go to great lengths to rush the project to approval and will use delay and false excuses to avoid legally required disclosure.”
Ronald Keough, assistant secretary for communications and public affairs in the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, said the state was “in the process of fulfilling the Alliance’s extensive public records request. We have already produced for the Alliance a voluminous amount of material, and will provide additional materials soon.”
“The Alliance’s request requires a search of three and a half years’ worth of correspondence and other records involving four dozen individuals and organizations named in the request, then redacting portions of those documents that fall outside the scope of the request,” Mr. Keough explained. “In addition, the documents we produce must be reviewed carefully in light of the numerous lawsuits the Alliance has filed against the Commonwealth, and the likelihood that the Alliance will pursue further litigation.”
The Alliance disputed the claim that pending litigation was an influencing factor, noting that as of August 31 there were no wind farm-specific lawsuits outstanding against the state.
“This is a time consuming process, but the Alliance’s records request will be fulfilled in as expeditious a manner as possible,” Mr. Keough said, echoing a similar remark issued by state officials in September, when the Alliance filed Freedom of Information Act requests with state and federal agencies to view documented communications between Cape Wind, National Grid, and state officials.
Project foes claimed that what little documentation had been released to date by the Federal Bureau of Offshore Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (formerly the Minerals Management Service) and the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA) indicated a lack of impartiality on the state’s part.
According to the Alliance, the documentation that had already been made public showed that Gov. Patrick gave the green light for Ian A. Bowles, secretary of the executive office of energy and environmental affairs, to engage in “frequent negotiations last fall with Cape Wind, National Grid and the State Attorney General” Martha Coakley to hash out the details of the pending power purchase agreement.
Lisa Capone, press secretary for the executive office energy and environmental affairs, said in September that the office was not blocking the Alliance’s request, but could not quickly amass the three-plus years of “communications, correspondence, emails telephone messages, message logs, calendar entries, appointments, or spreadsheets, or similar communications” requested by the Alliance.
Mark Rodgers, director of communications for Cape Wind, did not express concern over this latest lawsuit.
“The opposition group is fond of litigation but they have not enjoyed much success with it,” he said, noting, “their losing legal track record stands at zero for 15, and counting.”
Mr. Rodgers also questioned whether, because of the timing, “the lawsuit has more to do with the election than anything else.” The wind farm was a hot-button issue in both the race for governor and the race for US Representative of the 10th Congressional District.
Ms. Parker accused Gov. Patrick of accepting campaign donations from Cape Wind supporters and National Grid, “and the public has a right to know whether there has been a quid pro quo…Governor Patrick should provide voters with full disclosure so they can accurately judge the relationship between Cape Wind and the Patrick administration.”
According to Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance, James S. Gordon, president of Cape Wind, has since Gov. Patrick’s election to the Corner Office in 2005 donated $2,500 to the governor’s campaign. He has also donated $1,000 to Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray, and in 2009 and 2010 donated $8,000 to the Massachusetts Democratic State Committee.
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