Changing the Rules for “The Next Big Thing”
Special deals. Special laws. Once the state starts taking this sort of step, we’re well past the point of reasonable accommodation for an incipient industry:
State lawmakers are attempting to breathe new life into a stalled proposal for an eight-turbine wind farm in waters off Block Island through legislation that would allow the project to bypass a difficult regulatory hurdle.
A bill filed late Wednesday would make it possible for developer Deepwater Wind and National Grid, the state’s main electric utility, to enter into a power-purchase agreement without having to win approval from the state Public Utilities Commission. …
Instead of the PUC, approval of a new contract for Deepwater would be in the hands of the appointed directors of four other state agencies: the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers, the Economic Development Corporation, the Office of Energy Resources and the Department of Administration. All four agencies would have to certify an agreement for it to go into effect, but they would each be given very narrow parameters for their review.
Deepwater and its government supporters didn’t get the result they wanted through the normal path — permission to force energy consumers to pay three times the going rate of electricity for its product — so the latter are changing the regulatory path and putting blinders on the regulators. Whatever good intentions may lie behind such initiatives, this sort of special treatment should be a red flag for voters and legislators and is a bright beacon for corruption.
Amy Kempe, Carcieri’s spokeswoman, said the introduction of the bill had no connection to the Cape Wind decision. Approval of the Massachusetts project, she said, only buttressed the belief held by Carcieri and House and Senate leaders in the promise of a national offshore wind industry.
“Yesterday’s announcement shows that this is a viable industry,” she said Thursday. “It is going to be moving forward.”
It appears that Ms. Kempe misses the distinction between evidence that an industry is viable and evidence that it is politically popular. The former means that people are willing to allocate their own money for a good or service; the latter means that elected and bureaucratic officials are willing to allocate other people’s money for it. The standards for success are clearly quite different.