Chris Perry Column: Show Me Some Of The Money

Chris Perry •

A Vineyard Wind turbine under construction southwest of Nantucket. Photo by Kit Noble

Now, that wasn’t so difficult, was it?

For the past two years, all Vineyard Wind and Cultural Heritage Partners had to do was push two buttons. And last week, they finally did.

The first button transferred the money and the second button sent out the press release from the Community Foundation For Nantucket. While most of you were either fixated on the dollar amounts or translating “legal speak” to English, I spent some time trying to figure out what wasn’t said.

First off, kudos to those receiving some money. Anytime you can secure funds from a large, international corporation, you should grab it and run.

However, in this case, it comes with strings attached and that was one of my well documented objections to this agreement. In addition to Nantucket “selling” its name for potentially $16 million and the unreasonable expectations assumed by the Nantucket community as de-facto signers of the Good Neighbor Agreement, cash is king so spend it wisely.

But why has it been so difficult to secure the first payment(s) and why has it been so hard to get anyone associated with receiving the money to comment?

If this represented a “normal” course of action and someone dropped $500K into your non-profit coffers or $1 million into the Nantucket Offshore Wind Community Fund, you’d be dancing up and down Main Street with the Morris Dancers as part of the Daffodil Weekend celebration. Instead, it has been two unfulfilling press releases and radio silence despite the fact inquiring minds - and donors - want to know.

Consequently, we are left trying to read between the lines. With these two recent press releases acting as the community’s main source for current information on Vineyard Wind and the Good Neighbor Agreement, I can’t help but to think of Julia Roberts in Pretty Women when she said: “Mistake…Big mistake.

The three-page press release shared with the Nantucket community roughly six weeks ago never once mentioned the Good Neighbor Agreement even though it was a crucial document moving forward. Additionally, it never outlined the specifics associated with Nantucket’s responsibilities to secure future payments. Instead, the Nantucket community received a pep talk from Cultural Heritage Partners on the virtues of offshore wind production.

In the Community Foundation’s recent press release, I ask you to do the math. First payments were supposed to total $4 million yet only approximately $2.5 million were accounted for in last week’s missive. Again, the Nantucket community is forced to read between the lines; but simply put, the numbers don’t add up.

After reaching out to Cultural Heritage Partners for additional information, they confirmed that two payments were not listed and the exact amounts of those two payments still remain a mystery.

Why it is such a State Secret is beyond me; but for the sake of this discussion, I am going to speculate and try to make the numbers work.

The total outlined in last week’s press release comes to approximately $2.5 million including the town of Nantucket receiving $1.25 million for “projects” that have yet to be identified. That leaves roughly $1.5 million of the $4 million still unaccounted for.

As you can see, I prefer round numbers when I do my math so…

First: I am guesstimating that Maria Mitchell Association received a one-time payment of roughly $500K which is in the same “ballpark” as the $600K that the Nantucket Preservation Trust received from Vineyard Wind. While Nantucket Preservation Trust’s windfall was finally announced in the most recent press release, Maria Mitchell Association’s was not, which only adds more intrigue to the matter. Since the MMA has refused to respond to several requests for an official comment on the dollar amount, one can only guess they are preoccupied with their upcoming construction project.

Second: I am guesstimating that Cultural Heritage Partners received a $1 million dollar “cut” of the $4 million-dollar first payment(s) for their legal services.

After speaking with a handful of professionals who are familiar with this type of legal representation, a 25 percent fee is fairly standard and what I am assuming was received by Cultural Heritage Partners. Looking to confirm this, the Current reach out to Greg Werkheiser, one of the founding partners at Cultural Heritage Partners, and he informed us that that specific information was private and cannot be shared. Thinking that the compensation package the town of Nantucket negotiated with Cultural Heritage was simply a matter of public record, I was surprised when a Select Board member confirmed this privacy stipulation.

So there you have it - $4 million…

In round numbers: A cool $1.25 million to the Town of Nantucket - another $1.25 million split between the Nantucket Preservation Trust and the Nantucket community that can apply for non-profit grant requests - a million to Cultural Heritage Partners for legal - and $500K to Maria Mitchel Association.

If anyone out there would like to correct these figures for the record, call me - we can chat.

With $4 million paid out and the celebrations winding down, we now have the $12 million dollar question: What can Nantucket and the Nantucket Offshore Wind Community Fund realistically expect to receive moving forward?

Frankly, I am not optimistic due to the unhealthy financial, economic and legal conditions associated with the production of offshore wind energy. Since that is a key element tying future payments to Nantucket, I’d spend that money quickly before they ask for it back.

On the financial and economic side of things, current conditions have led experts to forecast stormy seas ahead. For example, Avangrid - a stakeholder in the Good Neighbor Agreement - recently announced that it was abandoning its Park City Wind Project off Connecticut due to “the present financial & economic conditions.” Avangrid paid a $16 million dollar penalty to cancel.

Shell and Ocean Winds paid a $60 million dollar fee to cancel their power purchase agreements for the SouthCoast Wind project.

Avangrid paid an additional $48 million to cancel its project with Massachusetts to sell power via its Commonwealth Wind Project.

This past summer, Rhode Island Energy cancelled a power purchase agreement with Orsted and EverSource via the Revolutionary Wind project “because the power from the offshore plant was too expensive for customers to bear…”

While the present administration is pushing its clean energy agenda, obvious negative economic factors related to offshore wind development are being ignored including supply chain issues; rising interest rates; scarcity of copper, manganese, and zinc; inflation; along with the cost of concrete, steel, plastics and labor.

It just doesn’t add up.

On Nantucket, cracks are starting to show because apparently some voters are unwilling to blindly follow along anymore.

As reported by the Current in today’s issue, two citizen petitions for the 2023 Annual Town Meeting were delivered to the town of Nantucket on Monday. It is anticipated that these two warrant articles will be on the Town Meeting warrant next spring.

It is my understanding that the first one asks the voters to direct the Select Board to withdraw the Town of Nantucket from the present Good Neighbor Agreement.

It is my understanding that the second article asks the voters to require any future action by the town of Nantucket in any offshore wind development to be brought before the public for debate at Town Meeting.

How that plays out is anyone guess; but the fact that there is a local movement against the Good Neighbor Agreement and future offshore wind projects in our backyard is a statement about the present economic environment for offshore wind farms as much as it is on the slumping potential for Nantucket to collect additional monies via the existing agreement.

As I have written in the past, if all money due Nantucket was front loaded and if we could have secured discounted electric power for island residents from these offshore rigs whirling away off our coast, I would have hypocritically navigated the construction barge out to the site myself.

But that’s not going to happen because I doubt we will see anywhere close to the additional $12 million promised over the next six to eight years.

Having said that, I am willing to make it interesting - let’s put dinner on it.

Call me in 2030 and we’ll meet at Millie's for dinner and the sunset. If we sit down and our view of the horizon is dotted with dozens and dozens of offshore wind platforms, then we know Vineyard Wind survived and one would assume that all payments due the Nantucket Offshore Wind Community Fund were satisfied - $12 million, less legal.

I doubt it. But if I am wrong, then dinner and the first Madaket Mystery is on me.

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