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Matt Mannix, Esq., Narragansett Town Council
Matt Mannix Ran this year for his first town council term. Attorney and resident of Narragansett, RI.
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If Deepwater Wind cared about RI it would move away. We don’t need ocean pollution or high electric rates.
Councilor Mannix stood alone. In the end the other 4 councelors voted with him to stop Deepwater Wind from ever building anything in Narragansett and especially preventing them from burying a 35,000 volt cable under Narragansett Rhode Island’s most popular town beach. Deepwater Wind failed.
WHY I AM OPPOSED TO DEEPWATER WIND As a candidate for Town Council last year, I promised to protect and preserve the Town of Narragansett – namely its beaches, local businesses and fishing industry.  I did not anticipate that an issue would confront us so soon that would put that promise squarely to the test.  That issue was Deepwater Wind, LLC’s desire to connect a proposed Block Island windfarm to the Rhode Island mainland by landing the connecting cable at Narragansett Town Beach.  As a newly elected official, when I was initially informed of Deepwater’s proposal, I expressed my reservations.  Almost immediately thereafter, I took up two tasks.  First, I pushed to have any discussions between town officials and Deepwater to be held in public – not in private.  Second, I began to independently research Deepwater’s proposal.  What I uncovered was a deeply flawed proposal – not just for Narragansett, but also for Rhode Island. I began my research by going back to the beginning and reviewing the Report and Order issued by the R.I. Public Utilities Commission (PUC) on April 2, 2010 in Docket 4111.  The PUC had the role of reviewing the commercial reasonableness of the project.  During that review, Deepwater and its allies were under oath and testified in detail regarding their proposal.  In Docket 4111, the PUC ruled that Deepwater’s plan was commercially unreasonable due to the increased burden it would impose on ratepayers who would be “paying $390 million more for electricity.”  (p. 69)  The PUC viewed this exorbitant increase in energy costs as harmful to the state’s taxpayers, residents and existing businesses.  The PUC described the project’s benefits, by contrast, as “based on speculation.”  (p.78) A nexus of Big Government, Big Business and political insiders were – and still are – pushing this project very hard.  The state’s maligned Economic Development Corporation (EDC) was a major champion of this project.  In Docket 4111, the EDC’s 2010 Director of Affairs, Policy and Communications told the PUC that the EDC had worked closely with Governor Donald Carcieri’s office and Deepwater to aid in the realization of “the commitments that Deepwater has made to the economic development of a renewable energy business in Rhode Island.”  (p. 22)  This behavior hardly seems an appropriate role for our state’s EDC, which one would hope would be examining whether Deepwater’s proposal – or any proposal for that matter – was good for the state’s economy.  However, the EDC clearly saw its role differently.  When asked to weigh in on whether the project was commercially reasonable, the same EDC witness indicated that the EDC could not offer a position on that issue, but urged its “expeditious execution.”  (p. 23)  While arguing for speedy implementation, the EDC informed the PUC that it had conducted no independent economic analysis of the project, but asked the PUC to approve it anyway.  When pressed on this lack of analysis, the EDC witness flatly informed the PUC that the EDC was “not looking at this question as narrowly as you have asked it.”  (p. 53). In short, the EDC was for this project because the Governor and General Assembly were for it.  The governor himself testified in favor of the proposal.  (p. 40)  The PUC was not convinced and rejected the project on the grounds that it was not commercially reasonable to impose a mammoth rate hike on consumers.  Shortly thereafter, the General Assembly hastily passed legislation changing the definition of “commercially reasonable.”  The PUC was then forced to review the project in a second docket (Docket 4185), with this newly watered-down definition of “commercially reasonable.”  The obvious gamesmanship was not lost on the PUC, which stated the following in Docket 4185:  “apparently dissatisfied with the Commission’s findings, on June 10, 2010, both chambers of the General Assembly passed amendments” to the original legislation.  (p. 3)  While the speed with which the General Assembly took up this issue clearly cries out for reform, that is a fight for another day.  What becomes clear in Docket 4185 is the reluctance of the Commissioners to approve this project, which they did on a 2-1 vote.  The dissenting Commissioner in Docket 4185 deserves kudos for her thoughtful argument against approval. Then Deepwater came to Narragansett’s shores.  It asked for easements to dig up our Town Beach, disrupt our local economy and allow this cable to connect to the mainland for $2.25 million.  The long-term impact of this cable connection was unclear at best and dangerous at worst.  Either way, it was not quantified.  The risks of this project were great and, I, along with my fellow town council members, unanimously voted to deny Deepwater’s requests for easements at our August 5, 2013 meeting.    Several special interests have advocated for this project since its inception, but the independent research conducted by the grassroots’ opposition has been much more persuasive.  Deepwater, as the PUC noted, has a vested interest in this project and its investors see a major payoff on the horizon.  The people of Narragansett, by contrast, made an independent assessment.  That assessment viewed this project as an assault on our beach and harmful to our fragile fishing industry, which is already grossly over-regulated and stymied by bureaucrats. But the story is far from over.  The increased energy rates associated with this project, clearly documented by the PUC, are certain to deal crippling blows to our economy and the state’s ratepayers as a whole.  The more I have investigated this project, the more I have realized that this project impacts the whole state.  I urge all Rhode Islanders to research this project and resist Deepwater in any way they can.  Some will say that the Deepwater project is a “done deal,” as I was told countless times throughout the past few months.  I did not listen to that sentiment.  Instead, Narragansett’s residents taught us that participatory democracy still works, even when a flawed project may appear to be a “done deal.”  I hope that Rhode Island’s residents voice their opposition to Deepwater and show that participatory democracy is alive and well in Rhode Island.   Sincerely, Matthew M. Mannix Narragansett Town Council