FERC rejects retired Navy pilot’s objection to R.I. offshore farm

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, June 19, 2015

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission today rejected a retired Navy pilot’s bid to fight wind development off the coast of Rhode Island.

FERC rejected a request from Benjamin Riggs Jr. for the commission to initiate an enforcement action against the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission for approving a purchase power agreement in 2010 between the developer of the 30-megawatt, five-turbine Block Island Wind Farm and the Narragansett Electric Co., a subsidiary of National Grid.

Riggs, who has publicly opposed other offshore wind projects, argued in filings to FERC that the state’s approval of the purchase power agreement violated the Federal Power Act, the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) and the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause. The Block Island Wind Farm is slated to come online next year.

But FERC commissioners today rejected Riggs’ request and said he was free to take his objections to court.

“Our decision not to initiate an enforcement action means that Mr. Riggs may himself bring an enforcement action against the Rhode Island Commission in the appropriate court,” commissioners wrote.

A resident of Newport, R.I., Riggs has in the past argued that offshore wind projects threaten the state’s economy with “extreme utility-rate increases” and asserted that the production of parts in countries like China create deadly air pollution.

This isn’t the first time FERC has rejected such a claim from Riggs.

The commission in 2012 rejected Riggs’ request for enforcement action against the same state agency for imposing incentive rates under PURPA for renewable energy projects.

Riggs said the rates exceeded what was allowed under the federal law, but FERC once again declined to take action and paved the way for Riggs to take his case to court.

“We knew the complaint was completely baseless, and we’re pleased that the Commission acted accordingly,” Deepwater’s CEO Jeffrey Grybowsk said in a statement. “Development of our Block Island Wind Farm continues to move full speed ahead, with offshore installation of the first components planned for July.