Bristol Withdraws From East Bay Wind Collaborative

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

BRISTOL, R.I. — The East Bay Energy Consortium (EBEC) has one less member, as the Town Council voted Oct. 10 to withdraw from the nine-community renewable-energy collaborative. Much of the council’s opposition to the group centered on its disapproval of wind energy and contempt for the state’s 2011 renewable energy laws that seek to reduce the use of fossil fuels.

Council member Halsey Herreshoff called the laws, which offer fixed pricing for large wind and solar projects, “failed” and “extreme.”

“This kind of law is a bad example of big government forcing people to do something that is not in their best interest,” Hereshoff said. The legislation, he added, was crafted by the organizers of the East Bay Energy Consortium.

Council member Mary Parella cast the lone opposition vote. She said the council was being swayed by a vocal minority. She said two residents in particular, Peter Hewitt and Nicolas Ratti, have expressed unrelenting opposition to the EBEC. Both speak out regularly against the project at council meetings and at the Statehouse, and send letters of opposition to judicial and regulatory bodies.

“If we don’t get out of (the EBEC) you’re going to come after it, come after it, come after it at every single meeting,” Parella said to Hewitt. “You can do that, but I don’t think I’m going to be pushed into making a decision because one person or two people in the public don’t like it.”

Council members Antonia Teixeira and David Barboza said they were put off by the EBEC’s decision to withhold wind-speed data collected from the site of a proposed eight- to 10-turbine wind farm in Tiverton. The EBEC has said that it was withholding the data so that competing wind-turbine developers wouldn't use the information for their own proposals. EBEC has spent more than $100,000 on gathering wind data and other information from the proposed site, the Tiverton Industrial Park.

In recent months, vocal opposition has increased against the wind project. Ratti, Hewitt and members of the Ocean State Tea Party in Action mounted a successful campaign to derail legislation creating the EBEC as a public-private agency. Several councils within the EBEC and Gov. Lincoln Chafee also opposed the legislation, after learning about the EBEC’s proposed power of eminent domain. (EBEC officials insist Chafee regrets opposing the legislation.)

In August, an exasperated Bristol Town Council elected to pull its two representatives from attending monthly EBEC meetings. It also stopped acting as a fiduciary agent for the EBEC and returned grant funds to the state Economic Development Corporation (EDC), the EBEC’s biggest donor.

Barboza said the Town Council could rejoin the EBEC in the future. “But for now, let’s bury it and put it where it belongs and move along with town business."

Town Council Chairman Kenneth Marshall, a proponent of the EBEC, was not at the Oct. 10 meeting.

The EBEC was established in 2009 with appointed representatives from East Providence, Barrington, Bristol, Warren, Portsmouth, Tiverton, Middletown, Little Compton and Newport. In 2010, the EBEC received $335,000 from the state Renewable Energy Fund (REF) for pre-construction of the mostly undeveloped 177-acre Tiverton business park. An initial grant of $100,000 in 2009 came from the REF, along with $40,000 from The Rhode Island Foundation.

The EBEC said it plans to go before the eight other EBEC town and city councils after the Nov. 6 elections to outline its plan to organize itself as a nonprofit entity.