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Just Say 'Yes'

   "New England has the highest gas and among the highest electricity costs in the nation," Grasso continues. "Weaver's Cove is the only LNG project in New England that can help meet the region's need for natural gas, especially on the immediate term. And we would reduce wholesale natural gas prices in the area by up to 20 percent."
   Because the Gloucester proposals have been delayed, Grasso says, the Weaver's Cove project has a two- year jump on all other New England projects.
   "We'll continue to educate officials as to why Fall River is the best site for an LNG terminal," Grasso says, "because it is situated directly in the marketplace, which will have a direct impact on cost efficiency."
   Afonso says safety concerns are important, but "we have to be open to alternatives." The same goes for the two offshore facilities proposed in the Gloucester area, which have received some opposition from the fishing community. But Afonso says the ability to interconnect via an offshore pipeline may strike just the right balance and be a fair solution there.
   One way to not proceed, he says, is to uniformly reject all options.
   "If state regulators take an extreme position, they will be marginalized, and federal regulators will step in and make the decision for us," he says. While praising the excellence and collaboration of FERC Chairman Joe Kelliher and his team, he says state officials need to work things out so the process needn't be taken over by FERC.
   Afonso says some of the cost objections raised to the 130- turbine, $900- million Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound by prominent businessman, America's Cup winner and Nantucket resident William Koch may be sound, but as oil and gas prices go higher by the day, wind projects become more commercially viable. More generally, he says, the country has been talking about renewable energy options for 20 years, and given global instability, "we can't afford another 20 years with nothing happening."
   At one point earlier this year it appeared that a Congressional provision was going to allow Gov. Romney to block the project, first proposed in 2001. But those provisions were removed in June at the last minute from the bill. Now the decision- making authority resides with the U.S. Coast Guard.
   Afonso says the siting process for the 420- megawatt wind farm has been a grueling one, even though his regulatory role extended just to the transmission lines – the turbines themselves fall under the U.S. Dept. of the Interior because they would be in federal waters. On May 10, 2005, the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) over which he presided approved Cape Wind's application because the project would provide needed new electricity supply, reduce electricity costs and provide air quality benefits to New England.
   "I lived that intensely for three years," he says, citing extensive data analysis and outreach work. "When it was all said and done, we did it the way it should be done, which is to not politicize the process. The reality was I was going to lead this agency to a fair conclusion based on the facts and the law. It took a lot longer – the statute calls for a year process, and this took almost three years. That was a recognition of the importance of the project."
   Recognizing reality was part and parcel of that process. Wind energy, he says, is part of the solution. Whether that signals promise for another Boston wind farm – a 120- turbine, 300- mega watt project in Buzzards Bay – remains to be seen.
   "The reality is we can't say 'no' to every project," he says, citing the finite number of things that can be done to increase power supply. "If you say 'no' to everything, you're going to impact the supply and prices are going to increase. We need the opposite of that."

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