Pat Gearity Calls Out Charlie Copeland
I'm not the only wind power advocate who hasn't forgotten Charlie Copeland's opposition to the Bluewater Wind project. Pat Gearity, who knows the record as well as anyone, reviews Copeland's efforts to kill wind power in today's News Journal:
Copeland is off mark with Bluewater claim
Former Senate Minority Leader Charles Copeland has been running a radio ad for his candidacy for the office of lieutenant governor. It says, "Charlie Copeland passed a law that's fair for taxpayers and brings wind power to Delaware to reduce energy costs." The ad implies Copeland led the charge for the Bluewater Wind (BWW) offshore project. The facts say otherwise.
In April 2006, Copeland voted against a law mandating a new energy resource in Delaware (H.B. 6). A year later, he told me Bluewater's project should not be financed by Delmarva Power customers.
In December Controller General Russ Larson was ready to vote on a Bluewater/Delmarva Power contract on behalf of the Delaware General Assembly. According to The News Journal, Copeland told Larson he had doubts about the contract. Copeland wanted to spread the charges to everyone in Delaware. By then, the municipal utilities had a contract to buy offshore wind. Between Delmarva Power customers and municipal utility customers, 90 percent of Delaware households were already slated to buy Bluewater's power. The remaining 10 percent of Delaware households were customers of Delaware Electric Cooperative (DEC). But the cooperative had long-term contracts for power through its parent, Old Dominion Electric Cooperative; they were not willing to contract with Bluewater. If adopted, Copeland's idea to force DEC to share cost for the Bluewater contract could have doomed the wind farm. Supporters of the project called Copeland's idea "a poison pill."
On April 23, Copeland cast the deciding third vote approving an anti-Bluewater report supported by Senate Energy and Transit Committee Chairman Harris McDowell. Two weeks earlier, The News Journal quoted Senate President pro tempore Thurman Adams as saying, "Probably the [Committee's] report will determine what will be done" in the Senate regarding the wind contract. Because Copeland voted "yes," the anti-wind report was titled "Majority Report," and was sent to the Senate.
On Aug. 8, The News Journal reported that Copeland defended his vote by saying he had to vote for the report so that it could be released publicly. This makes no sense. A draft of the McDowell report was leaked to The News Journal two weeks before the vote. The newspaper published key findings, including recommendations to reject the contract and terminate the bid process. Most of the report was unchanged in the final version.
Instead of voting for the McDowell report, Copeland could have supported a rebuttal report submitted by Senators Karen Peterson and Catherine Cloutier. Their analysis corrected mistakes and misleading calculations in the McDowell report. Their report was supported by filed comments from experts on offshore wind development and project financing.
Fortunately, Delmarva Power and Bluewater successfully negotiated a contract in June. Delmarva Power will buy one-half of the power that would have been provided by the original contract. Had the original, bigger wind contract been approved last December, ratepayers (not taxpayers) would have saved more money. Sharply escalating coal, oil and natural gas prices in 2008 proves the point. Also, unless the Public Service Commission says "no," Delmarva Power ratepayers will be billed for hundreds of thousands of dollars in negative ads run against Bluewater Wind from December 2007 to June 2008. Ratepayers will pay for the company's legal fees during the same period. Did Charlie Copeland save money for ratepayers? Not in my opinion.
Copeland's ad says he passed the law approving the wind contract. He had plenty of company. The bill passed unanimously in both chambers. The governor signed it into law the same day.
Charles Copeland voted against H.B. 6 in April 2006. A year later, he opposed the Bluewater Wind proposal. In December, he opposed the first wind contract. Six months later, Copeland voted for the second wind contract, but only after Delmarva Power approved it, 93 percent of Delawareans approved it, and Copeland had announced his candidacy for lieutenant governor. Charlie Copeland was no cheerleader for offshore wind. That is obvious from the record.
Patricia Gearity is one of many Delawareans who supported the offshore wind project. A retired lawyer, she volunteers her time advocating for clean, renewable energy.