BOSTON (AP) — Opponents of a proposed wind farm in Nantucket Sound have filed a federal lawsuit saying the state overstepped its authority when it brokered an agreement for a major utility to buy power from the project.
The suit filed Tuesday by the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, the town of Barnstable and several Cape Cod businesses and individuals argues that by brokering the deal between NStar and Cape Wind, the state discriminated against out-of-state power companies with a deal that will drive up electricity costs.
The suit alleges that state regulators exceeded their authority in setting wholesale rates for the contract in violation of both the Federal Power Act and the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which reserves that power for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
"These are all ratepayers that would be forced to pay much higher rates as a result of Cape Wind," alliance president Audra Parker said. "They would basically be harmed by an increase in electricity bills."
Parker said she is confident about the prospects of the suit given recent court decisions in Maryland and New Jersey that found state requirements for local utilities to sign long-term contracts with independent power producers unconstitutional.
Caroline Pretyman, a spokeswoman for Northeast Utilities, NStar's parent, called it unfortunate that the utility was named in the complaint.
The state is reviewing the case, said Krista Selmi of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
Opponents have filed a series of lawsuits against the project, expected to cost about $2.6 billion.
The project received federal approval in 2010 and has repeatedly won the permits it needs to be built.
NStar agreed to purchase power from Cape Wind at a starting price of 18.7 cents per kilowatt hour, well above typical wholesale prices.
Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers wrote in an emailed statement that the complaint was frivolous and without merit.
"The opposition group was unsuccessful in challenging a nearly identical power contract between Cape Wind and National Grid and they will fail again here," Rodgers wrote. "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."
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