Thursday, September 27, 2007

The General Assembly and Wind Power

I have received a copy of an interesting letter on wind power from six legislators to Russell Larson, who serves as Controller General. His office is one of the four agencies tasked with overseeing the energy procurement process along with the Public Service Commission (PSC), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Controls (DNREC). The Office of Controller General serves as the budget and policy staff for the General Assembly and, as such, was intended to represent the consensus of legislators in the implementation of the law that directed the request for proposals (RFP) process under which Delmarva Power has been ordered to negotiate with Bluewater Wind.
The letter points out that Larson is "obligated to return to the GENERAL ASSEMBLY for instructions as to how the GENERAL ASSEMBLY wishes to vote on the matter in question." This language in and of itself is hardly noteworthy. It's the rest of the letter that captured my interest.
Here's the full text:

September 12, 2007

The Honorable Russell Larson
Controller General
Legislative Hall
P.O. Box 1401
Dover, DE 19903

Dear Controller General Larson:

WHEREAS, in the matter of the negotiation for a long-term power purchase agreement, per PSC Order 7199, the four State agencies are to authorize the final decision which must be unanimous among the four agencies; and
WHEREAS, the Controller General is to represent the General Assembly in this matter; and
WHEREAS, these negotiations have been conducted under cloak of a gag order; and
WHEREAS, the General Assembly should be afforded full access to the facts affecting the negotiations before rendering its final decision; and
WHEREAS, new information not available at the time of consideration of HB 6 (EURCSA) and/or at the issuance of the RFP which led to PSC Order 7199 may be relevant to the final decision of the General Assembly; and
WHEREAS, the decision may involve billions of dollars of ratepayer and public monies which may require a substantial rate increase for which the General Assembly may be held accountable;
NOW, THEREFORE:
BE IT RESOLVED that the General Assembly should know the full implications of its vote before, not after, such vote is cast by the Controller General; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we the undersigned are of the considered opinion that before you cast a final vote binding the GENERAL ASSEMBLY, you are obligated to return to the GENERAL ASSEMBLY for instructions as to how the GENERAL ASSEMBLY wishes to vote on the matter in question.

Sincerely,
Harris B. McDowell, III
State Senate, 1st District
Robert L. Venables
State Senate, 21st District
Charles L. Copeland
State Senate, 4th District
Gregory F. Lavelle
State Representative, 11th District
Gerald W. Hocker
State Representative, 38th District
Hazel D. Plant
State Representative, 2nd District
Russell Larson, in a memo dated September 18, replied:
As I have done earlier, it is my intention to meet with the leadership of the General Assembly as well as Senator McDowell and Representative Valihura or, at a minimum, contact each of the aforementioned legislators before I make any decision regarding an agreement for a power purchase agreement.
Should the leadership agree that the entire General Assembly meet before any approvals on proposed Power Purchase Agreements are signed, no decision will be made on my part until the full General Assembly meets in January.
The letter from the six legislators is interesting in several respects:
First, it is dated September 12, two days before the deadline for presenting term sheets to the PSC. There was at that time no immediate decision pending before the PSC and the other state agencies beyond that of setting a timetable for further negotiations. Larson's reply is dated September 18, the Tuesday after the term sheets were submitted.
Second, the letter is couched in the language of a formal resolution, even though it is signed by an ad hoc set of three senators and three representatives.
Third, the letter refers to the negotiations being "conducted under cloak of a gag order" and takes the point of view that "the General Assembly should be afforded full access to the facts affecting the negotiations before rendering its final decision."
The negotiations have been conducted behind closed doors, as is customary with any complex negotiations. However, the term sheets produced by the negotiations were made publicly available almost immediately upon submission to the PSC on September 14, and are available to the public online. Further, the Office of Controller General is almost certainly in a privileged position in terms of having access to information on the progress of the negotiations not available to the public.
Fourth, the letter references "new information not available at the time of consideration of HB 6 (EURCSA) and/or at the issuance of the RFP which led to PSC Order 7199 may be relevant to the final decision of the General Assembly."

I don't know what that information could be; I will do my best to find out.
Fifth, the letter points out that "the decision may involve billions of dollars of ratepayer and public monies which may require a substantial rate increase for which the General Assembly may be held accountable."
This I can understand. The legislators signing the letter don't want to be blamed for any future rate increases.
I won't pretend to understand the larger import of the letter or what it might mean for future legislative action on wind power. I will share what I learn as I am able. Stay tuned.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Nancy Willing said...

McDowell is, of course, with Minner's entourage on her tour 'o wind 'n AZ. McDowell set up the new energy utility (SEU) into law that taps public monies for public instruction on savings.
McDowell was instrumental in providing for a percentage set aside for alternative energy sources back during the de-reg debate.
But what Senator McDowell might be trying to do behind the scenes here should become obvious. He either supports wind power farming for DE, what the public has said that it wants or he will support what his many foes have tagged him with, big energy.
Wonder who we will see:
Senator McDowell or Senator Delmarva?

8:45 AM, September 29, 2007  

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