Harris McDowell runs the Senate Energy Committee here in Delaware. There’s a ongoing spat, seems he isn’t excited about enforcing what’s affectionately known as H.B. 6 (LINK HERE), which is how the Bluewater Wind project was put on the map. Bluewater won a level playing field RFP competition between its proposal and NRG’s IGCC/coal gasification plant and a ho-hum gas plant. So he’s decided to have hearings about it — why, I don’t know, because everything’s been public record, the PSC has held so many hearings, even I’ve testified three times and written too many comments. So why? Only reason I can see is delay. Alan’s been dealing with him for some time, and it seems his primary constituent is Delmarva Power. Check Green Delaware Alert 581 for more on that.

I’m inclined to agree. What I’ve seen is that Delmarva Power is resisting, they do NOT want to sign a PPA with Bluewater Wind, they do NOT want offshore wind for Delaware. The state legislature, reeling from huge price increases that came with deregulation (and that deregulation bill was thanks to Harris McDowell), passed HB 6, which required that Delmarva do an RFP to stabilize cost for the “SOS” customers, “Standard Offer Service,” but the other meaning is as relevant. These are the residential customers hardest hit. There was a level playing field comparison of the three bidders, which were NRG with a coal gasification plant (oh, give me a break…), Conectiv with more natural gas, and Bluewater Wind with offshore wind (in Delaware, the wind is offshore, and onshore, it just doesn’t cut it). Bluewater won, following a very detailed, careful and thoughtful analysis by PSC staff, the PSC approved it, but it takes approval of four agencies, and at the meeting of the Gang of Four, the Gov’s Office of Management & Budget rep made a motion to table the whole thing and it was tabled! Since Bluewater won at the PSC, it’s sour grapes everywhere, and the people are clearly shouting, “WE WANT WIND” and the legislature is getting into the middle of it rather than follow HB6 (because they don’t like the results — rumor has it that this was desgined for NRG to get an IGCC plant and that didn’t work so they’re trying to throw a wrench in the gears — and to this observer, that rumor makes sense, whereas to the rest of the world, IGCC is senseless). McDowell doesn’t get that it’s not binary — he tosses out “conservation” and “efficiency” when faced with new generation of a type he doesn’t like, and doesn’t get that it’s electricity but it’s NOT binary, that we need it all, and we need it now. We need conservation, we need efficiency, we need wind and we need the gas for backup, and then we can shut down the coal plants (which is something he NEVER talks about, fancy that). So, here are primary documents shaping the fracas:

Delmarva RFP

Delmarva IRP

Delaware PSC Staff Recommends Wind/Gas Combo

Having experienced the first of Harris McDowell’s Senate Energy “public hearings” today, well… it was sort of like testifying about transmisison at Rep. Bill Hilty’s House Energy Committee… let’s start at the beginning.

Alan and I got there early, not an easy or common thing for either of us. We signed in, and I checked the box that said I wanted to speak (with a BIG green X) and roamed around. It was standing room only and were lucky enough to find a seat, a desk on the Republican side of the Senate chamber, B. Gary Simpson’s desk. Only three Energy Committee members were present! Maybe they didn’t want to join in the farce? We sat and sat and sat, listening to speaker after speaker, mostly the “usual suspects” in Delaware, and suddenly he says, “We’ve gone through the list,” and he held it up, and started to close it down. At that point, I hollered out from the floor, “I don’t think so, I signed up as we came in.” He said that we had to sign up by 5:00 p.m. to speak ?? say what?? Where was that publicized and if that was the case, why sign in lists at the door with a box to check to speak? A young staffer ran up to confer, and it turns out there’s an “A” list and a “B” list.

Really! There was the list prepared beforehand, the “A” list that he called on at the “public hearing,” and then there was the “B” list, the list of the public who had made the effort and travelled to show up at the hearing and who had signed up to speak on the list they provided. And he calls this a “public hearing.” What a farce.

Alan had questions last week and had been called back by McDowell’s staff guy, and I know he had actually talked to him, the guy on the phone was very gracious and helpful in answering Alan’s questions, but I also know that he was asked if he wanted to speak, if he was planning on it, and Alan said he didn’t know, he wanted to see how it goes (and at the time, I thought that was strange, and noted it and asked him about it, wanting to know why he didn’t demand time to speak), but apparently he’d been put on the “A” list anyway, even though he didn’t ask. So Alan was called and he spoke. I’d signed up at the door and was not called, and the same goes for the others who signed up at the door and had not been put on the “A” list. I stuck to my guns and probably wore out my welcome in Delaware, but it’s not a small thing to shut out the public and include only those few you want to speak. Worse, he’s holding a series of “public hearings” but this one, of at least five, is the only one where the public can speak! Suffice it to say, this did not sit well, and I stuck to my guns and after some mild protestations and a few hostile glares, he moved over to the real list, and went through it, protesting repeatedly that it was late, that we didn’t have time for them all, and of course I was last. Thankfully, though, after I spoke, he asked if there was anyone else, and a representative of the Delaware Nurse’s Association spoke about the health risks associated with coal, and it was GREAT! Perfect ending to a really stupid night…

I’m writing up my comments, what I’d planned to say, and I’ll post that tomorrow, but in the meantime, what I did say, when finally given the “opportunity” to speak, was in essence that he’s obviously got an “A” list and a “B” list and that’s not OK, that this process seemed to be a delay and that they should just get to it and order that the agencies approve the wind project, and most importantly, that his sense of procedure was appalling, that he’s shutting the public out. They need to know that the people of Delaware have spoken and they want wind, and shutting them out won’t change that, can’t be avoided, the people want wind, so get to it, just do it and make it happen.

More tomorrow…

OH, I almost forgot, one of these guys for Harris McDowell, III:


4 Responses to “Harris McDowell — public on the “B” list…”

  1. TommyWonk Says:

    I wasn’t on McDowell’s A list or any list at all, even though I had emailed earlier in the week to ask to be put on the agenda.

    I was allowed to make a presentation when Pat Gearity stood and asked if I could speak in her turn. McDowell wasn’t happy with the way I got shoehorned into the proceedings.

    The link to HB 6 is:


  2. Nancy Willing Says:

    The published announcements clearly indicated that you had to contact Sean Finnigan ahead of time to get on the list to ensure that you’d be able to speak with in the time constraints.
    I am glad that you finally did speak but sorry that I missed it. I left after 9:30.
    I look forward to reading what you said when you post it here.

  3. Carol A. Overland Says:

    So why are there sign-up sheets at the door, with a box to check to speak? This wasn’t an open public hearing, it was an orchestrated farce.

  4. Sumner Crosby Says:

    I’m so glad you were there, to say what you did! I’m just sorry I wasn’t there, too. As Tommywonk and Nancy Willing described, the “A” list was put together in response to a public notice in the paper, saying that you had to let Sean Finnigan know of your interest by 5pm a day or two before that hearing. I actually called Finnigan, got my name on the list, but was unable to get there due to conflicts too far away…

    If I had been there, my plan was to focus on something you said, Carol: we can’t afford to choose the SEU (conservation and efficiency) OR to choose something like the Bluewater Wind project. We need it all, and we needed it yesterday! If you put together a pie chart of the average sources of energy for the SOS ratepayers in DE, it would have mostly coal, followed by nuclear, oil, and natural gas. What the SEU hopes to do seems to me to amount to little more than SHRINK that pie chart, reducing Delaware’s demand for electricity. That is a very necessary initiative; but it is far from enough, when you consider the full set of costs (internalized and most importantly EXTERNALIZED) associated with the traditional energy portfolio.

    Not until we actually bite the bullet and replace some (hopefully all, one day) of the conventional, dirty methods for generating power will we actually have any hope of reaching goals like 80% reduction in Carbon by 2050. It will require as much of the SEU as we can do, as well as as much conversion of our generation system to truly clean, renewable sources of power. None of this “clean coal” nonsense, please. Bring on the offshore wind, with no more delay!

    Carol– thanks for all that you do!

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