A federal judge has dismissed Cape Wind opponents' latest lawsuit, which challenged the offshore wind project's power purchase agreement (PPA) with utility NSTAR. According to the developer, the decision marks the 26th failed legal action brought by opponents to the 468 MW Cape Wind project, proposed off the coast of Massachusetts.
Federal Judge Richard Stearns' decision rejected all claims against the State of Massachusetts, NSTAR and Cape Wind. The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a long-time project opponent, filed the lawsuit in January along with the Town of Barnstable, businesses and residents. The opponents announced the legal action right after losing a separate lawsuit against the project.
Among its many claims, the lawsuit charged that NSTAR's contract to purchase electricity from the Cape Wind project at "three times the price of competing out-of-state green energy" violated federal law and would unfairly burden ratepayers. It alleged that the State of Massachusetts discriminated against out-of-state companies by pressuring NSTAR to buy power from in-state generator Cape Wind. Furthermore, it also claimed Massachusetts regulators exceeded their authority in setting wholesale rates for the contract.
However, Stearns ruled, ‘The allegation that [the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities] dictated that NSTAR procure power from Cape Wind at a specified price is misleading and ultimately untrue.’
He also noted in his decision that the lawsuit would violate the 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gives states immunity from being sued for past actions in federal court. Stearns concluded his decision by observing the following:
‘[T]he governor, the legislature, the relevant public agencies, and numerous courts have reviewed and approved the project and the PPA with NSTAR and have done so according to and within the confines of the law. There comes a point at which the right to litigate can become a vexatious abuse of the democratic process. For that reason, I have dealt with this matter as expeditiously as possible.’
Cape Wind President Jim Gordon welcomes the court's decision. ‘This important legal victory provides further momentum for Cape Wind to secure project financing and produce the energy, economic and environmental benefits to the region and the United States by launching a domestic offshore wind industry," he says.
On its website, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound posted a statement responding to the decision: "The ruling is based on a legal technicality that does not address our claim that state regulators acted illegally. â�¦ The NSTAR-Cape Wind contract is unconstitutional, and we plan to appeal this ruling on behalf of Massachusetts' businesses and consumers, who would be forced to pay nearly one billion in additional electricity costs to cover the exorbitant cost of this deal."