Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Attacks Patrick Administration (USA)

Business & Finance

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is accusing the Patrick administration of holding up Nstar’s proposed $4.6 billion merger with Northeast Utilities until the firms sign a deal to purchase electricity from the planned Cape Wind project.

“In effect, the state administration is trying to hold hostage the proposed Nstar-Northeast Utilities merger unless the two electric companies agree to buy Cape Wind’s power,” Kennedy, an environmental activist and son of slain Democratic icon Robert F. Kennedy, complained yesterday in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece.

Cape Wind aims to build 130 electricity-producing wind turbines offshore in Nantucket Sound and counts Gov. Deval Patrick and some environmentalists among the project’s supporters. But Kennedy and other environmentalists oppose the plan, claiming Cape Wind will tarnish Cape Cod’s coastline while charging consumers too much for electricity.

Rival utility National Grid has agreed to purchase half of Cape Wind’s electricity, but Nstar has balked at a similar deal seen as crucial to the project’s success. Nstar considers Cape Wind’s roughly 25-cent-per-kilowatt-hour price too expensive.

Kennedy wrote in his op-ed piece that a recent Patrick administration decision to tighten standards for utility mergers really aims to pressure Nstar into OK’ing a Cape Wind deal.

 “There are ominous signs that Nstar, after years of fighting off pressure by the state of Massachusetts to jam its customers with higher costs, is being told to accept the higher costs after all,” he wrote.

But Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Mark Sylvia rejected those claims.

 “It is the responsibility of (the state) to ensure that any proposed merger is both beneficial for ratepayers and in-line with the Commonwealth’s nation-leading energy standards,” he said.

The DOER recently asked state utility regulators to hold up approval of the merger until Nstar completes a review of rates next year.

Nstar spokeswoman Caroline Allen said the utility “hopes” the state isn’t trying to link the merger’s approval to a Cape Wind deal.

Critics of the offshore wind project lauded Kennedy yesterday.

“I think he made some very strong, compelling arguments about what a boondoggle Cape Wind is,” said Audra Parker of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound.

But Cape Wind countered that Kennedy is merely afraid the project will spoil the view from the Kennedy clan’s famous Hyannisport compound.

 “His misleading (arguments) mask an entitled and hypocritical objection to the aesthetics of wind turbines six miles off his family’s waterfront compound,” Cape Wind said in a statement.

By Jerry Kronenberg (bostonherald)


Source: bostonherald, July 19, 2011;