Letters to the Editor, August 17, 2013
To the Editor:
On the front page of last week’s Block Island Times, Town Councilor Norris Pike, commenting on the possibility of a new fast ferry between Quonset and Block Island, is quoted as follows: “I have always thought we need to take a long and hard look at the amount of people that get dumped on the island in the summertime.” Mr. Pike continues with “To me, we can be at the saturation point with the amount of people (ferry company) Interstate brings.”
The Block Island Chamber of Commerce is disturbed and dismayed by these comments. First and foremost, to describe visitors to the island as people being dumped is an insult to all the folks who choose Block Island as their vacation and recreational destination over hundreds of other options. Who among us here on the island does not realize that tourism is our primary economy? There is no business on this island that is not in some way dependent on welcoming visitors to our shores. The Chamber of Commerce, along with the member businesses, works very hard across all spectrums to create a positive experience that will not only enhance the visitors time while on our island, but will hopefully leave them longing to return.
As far as the island being close to saturated, we couldn’t disagree more. Joan Abrams, (unarguably the mother of Block Island tourism) stated many times that when all the lodgings were full every day, she would stop promoting Block Island. Rooms are often filled on the weekends but there are vacancies during the week. Ask the shop owners, the restaurant owners, the bike and moped venues, the real estate offices, the charter fishing boats and other recreational businesses if they feel the island is saturated. The answer will be a resounding no! The infusion of business supplied by visitors to our shores uplifts and sustains us all.
Kathleen S. Szabo, Executive Director
Block Island Chamber of Commerce
To the Editor:
In the past weeks and months I have been touched by the unconditional love that holds this community together. It reveals itself in ways loud and silent, great and small. I am overwhelmed with gratitude by the outpouring of love and generosity so many have freely given to me.
For a long time I have been aware that there is not one who walks among us that the island would not rally around in a time of need, but being on the receiving end is a humbling and awe-inspiring experience. For that, I thank you all.
I would also like to extend a special thanks to Ed McGovern, all of the Yellow Kittens staff and Peglegasus for an unforgettable evening [in my honor]. I was overwhelmed by the turnout and donations made at the fundraiser. Your presence and giving has made all the difference.
To the Editor:
Rhode Islanders are currently watching the political drama called Deepwater Energy play out and wondering where their electrical rates are going. This really has nothing to do with energy but is all about tax credits and hedge fund profits. Without the tax credits and advance profits, there would never be a wind farm off the Rhode Island coast. Economically it doesn’t make sense. It is not a job generator and certainly will not save money, but many “environmentalists” will do anything to get rid of carbon-based electricity generation, including shooting themselves and us as taxpayers in the foot. They continue to push wind and solar despite the fact that they are very inefficient for large-scale use. Wind and solar may have a use in electrical generation, but it is limited. We can buy hydro-electric power from Canada for about one third the cost of wind generation.
A much better solution is nuclear but that is tied up in politics and regulation. France gets 85% of its electricity from nuclear reactors and China and India are rapidly moving that way. An even better solution is fusion, which uses power from our sun, if we can master the technology. Hydrogen is plentiful and the byproduct is water but dangerous if used improperly.
Wind-based electrical generation is a failed technology. It requires another source when the wind doesn’t blow and needs large batteries to store the energy it produces. If the wind blows really hard, the grid cannot take all of the electricity produced and some of the turbines must be shut down. These generators also have a relatively short useful life and are extremely expensive to construct and maintain. Around the world many countries are coming to the same conclusion. Germany and Ireland have made a huge bet on wind power and now are having buyer’s remorse.
We have just watched President Obama appeal to his environmental constituencies with a series of sweeping administrative rules that he could not pass through Congress. This has far less to do with global warming and far more to do with politics. By making carbon dioxide a pollutant he is able to wage war on carbon-based fuels. This was done despite the fact it is a gas exhaled by all mammals and essential to all green plants. He has set the stage for a carbon tax which will be a brand new source of revenue for the federal government. He has also fought increased drilling for oil and gas on federal land yet taken credit for the boom fracking has created increasing our energy supplies. Once again politics dictates our energy policies not science. We will run out of natural oil and gas but it will not be in this century.
Global warming and cooling is a fact of nature dictated primarily by sun activity. It is inevitable. We have only to look at the ocean 20,000 years ago when it was an estimated 400 feet lower than today. England and Ireland were part of the European land mass. Rhode Island was under several thousand feet of ice. It melted, the oceans rose and mankind had absolutely no effect on those occurrences. There will be global warming and cooling for as long as the sun lasts. Science is about fact not consensus. The original predictions of global warming were based on poor computer models and have proven to be wildly inaccurate. Time and again we have had people with an agenda tell us that this or that was bad only to be proven wrong. People game the system to justify their conclusions, but they are theories not facts.
China and India have three-fifths of the world’s population and they are still building coal plants, in addition to nuclear plants. They are driving more cars and creating massive environmental problems that make our energy saving efforts insignificant. Carbon dioxide does not respect national boundaries. Unless the entire world agrees to eliminate the use of carbon-based fuel, we are on a fool’s mission to destroy our economy. We are using a teaspoon to empty the bathtub while the water is running.
What is a fact is that a volcanic eruption like Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991 put an estimated 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide in the air in nine hours, temporarily lowering the temperature of the earth by a degree for several years. It also put more particulate matter in the atmosphere than all of the automobiles in the world for the past 10 years. It is the height of hubris to think we control the world’s temperature, but it makes good political sense to imply we can. It also makes good sense to conserve fuel, recycle and do what we can to preserve our environment. In the meantime, it doesn’t make sense to do away with carbon base fuel for a theory that is totally unproven before we have a replacement. Life is a continual series of choices and we make a lot of bad ones when we work on theory not fact.
To the Editor:
The 2013 Harbor Church Fair and Auction was a fun event featuring a live auction, silent auction (including cottage and B&B rentals), balloon mystery prizes, White Elephant sale, book sale, artisans and food. So far, we have brought in $12,531, but there are still some items left. If you’re interested, there’s an easel display in our Fellowship Hall that you can peruse, or please call me at the church office at 466-5940 for information.
I am so very grateful to everyone who helped with this year’s fair! Some of the key players were Rheba McKernan, Ellen Jacke, Steve Hollaway, Barby and Doug Michel, and other “angels” too numerous to list. We couldn’t have done it without you all!
2013 Harbor Church Fair & Auction Chairperson
To the Editor:
On Aug. 3, the Mary D Ball was held at The Sullivan House. It was a beautiful summer night and the tent was beautiful. Who could ask for anything more?
Sean and Rosalie O’Brien Kivlehan served up a spectacular buffet, truly enjoyed by all.
Walter McDonough delighted all in attendance with his Irish music, while everyone enjoyed their meal. Captain Nick’s took over when it was time to dance — and dance they did. The dance floor filled to capacity, with young and old alike. The young people, dressed to the nines, did not sit down all evening. They just sang and danced. It was a family affair. Hooray!
I want to thank everyone who came and had a good time and gave generously to the fund. Always remember that you are the fund, without you there would be nothing.
I want to thank Sean McGarry, Molly and Chris O’Neill, co-chairs, and also Michael O’Brien, who always man’s the bar!
Love to you all and God Bless.
The following was sent to the Town Council and the Electric Utilities Task Group and copied to The Block Island Times.
To the Editor:
Respectfully, I would like to raise your awareness of two important facts: (1) If Deepwater Wind abandons construction of the Block Island Wind Farm and focuses on its planned utility scale wind farm on the outer continental shelf, Block Island will still get a power cable connection to the mainland. (2) If the Block Island Power Company (BIPCo) converts its fuel source to liquefied natural gas, power costs to Block Island ratepayers will drop 20 percent, or to 39 cents per kWh from the current annual average of close to 50 cents.
(1) A cable comes with any windfarm
According to Deepwater’s website, the company’s mission is to develop wind farms in deep ocean waters, where they are virtually invisible from shore. That is, except for the one they plan for Block Island, which will consist of five turbines and be just 2.8 miles offshore for 20 years. These turbines will stand over 660 feet or 2.5 times the elevation of the Southeast Light House above sea level. The wind farm will come close to breaking the record for the tallest in the world (built in 2012, the one in Paproc, Poland is 689 feet). According to Deepwater, the Block Island Wind Farm will be viewable from over 80 percent of the island.
On July 31, Deepwater won an auction to lease two offshore wind energy sites located in the federal waters off the coasts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. This Deepwater Wind Energy Center (DWEC) will be located on the Outer Continental Shelf roughly 17 miles south of Rhode Island, between Block Island and Martha’s Vineyard. Thereon, Deepwater plans to develop a utility-scale wind farm of up to 200 turbines with regional transmission cables linking Long Island to southeastern New England. This DWEC Wind Farm will have the capacity to generate 1,000 megawatts of power.
Unlike the Block Island Wind Farm, which will cost Rhode Island ratepayers over $500,000,000 in excess of market costs for just 30 megawatts of power, the DWEC Wind Farm will have economies of scale and be able to price its power competitively with the current market cost of power. Deepwater has indicated that the Block Island Wind Farm will be operational by 2015 and the larger DWEC Wind Farm will be operational just 3 years later (2018).
Importantly, the Joint Development Agreement (JDA) signed by Deepwater and the State of Rhode Island in 2009 governs the development milestones for the Block Island Wind Farm and the larger utility scale DWEC Wind Farm. Section VI(B) of the JDA provides that Deepwater must connect Block Island to the mainland’s power grid even if it discontinues its efforts to build the Block Island Wind Farm and focuses solely on building the DWEC Wind Farm. Said another way, if Deepwater abandons efforts to build the Block Island Windfarm, it must still install a cable to connect Block Island to the mainland power sources in order to provide a less expensive and more reliable source of power to the island.
Therefore, since a cable connection to the mainland will come with the DWEC Wind Farm just three years later than the Block Island Wind Farm, I urge the Town Council and EUTG to focus on assisting Deepwater to build its planned DWEC Wind Farm and recommend the abandonment of the Block Island Wind Farm in order to avoid 20 years of its overpowering presence and nuisance to our island.
(2) Using liquefied natural gas as a fuel source for BIPCo materially defeats the main rationale for allowing the Block Island wind farm to be constructed.
In November 2012, the EUTG submitted a formal letter recommendation and report to Town Council detailing the expected power cost savings to Block Island ratepayers for having a power cable connection to the mainland. The only current initiatives that contemplate such a power cable connection to the mainland are the Block Island Wind Farm (2015) and the DWEC Wind Farm (2018). As indicated above, either wind farm will provide a power cable connection to the mainland. The EUTG has indicated publicly that, with a cable, the overall cost of electricity on Block Island will drop from just over 50 cents/kilowatt hour to 31 cents per kilowatt hour, a 40 percent savings. Electric rates often vary because over half the cost of power is for reimbursement of the cost of diesel fuel used to generate the power.
BIPCo reports its annual power sales to regulators under FERC Form 1. For its fiscal year ending May 31, 2012 (2013 not filed yet), BIPCo sold 10 million kWh of power to Block Island ratepayers at an average cost of $0.489/kWh to residential, business and town ratepayers. Of that sum, $0.171/kWh was for power sales and $0.318/kWh was for fuel surcharges. Clearly, fuel surcharges are our main challenges when it comes to power.
BIPCo has recently indicated that it is contemplating partially converting its fuel supply source to liquefied natural gas, where the change will result in up to $500,000 savings to Block Islanders. A full conversion would save up to $1 Million. If such a fuel source was in place during BIPCo 2012 fiscal year, the all-in cost of power to Block Island power users would have been $0.391/kWh. This would have been a 20 percent drop in power cost and just 9 cents per kWh more than the EUTG’s estimate for all-in power costs after a cable hookup to the mainland.
There were 1,392 residential power customers in 2012 whose average monthly bill was $117 (the average monthly bill for businesses was $516 and $1,059 for Block Island government & agencies). When you compare the cost of power from BIPCo if fully-converted to liquefied natural gas versus a cable hookup to the mainland (i.e. via any Wind Farm project), the benefit to an average residential monthly bill is $11. Eleven Dollars.
So, one must ask this question: Is it worth the State of Rhode Island mandating the socialization of $500,000,000 in power costs in excess of market for the Block Island Wind Farm and polluting the natural beauty of Block Island’s coast line for 20 years in order to save $11 per month on one’s household power bill?
Before you answer that question, remember that Deepwater’s DWEC Wind Farm (and its required cable hookup to the mainland) will be operational just three years after the expected operational date of the Block Island Wind Farm. That would mean it would cost the average residential household just $396 in total to wait for the larger wind farm to be built and save the natural beauty of our coast line for 20 years.
Please support BIPCo’s full conversion to liquefied natural gas and replace your support for the near-shore Block Island Wind Farm in favor of the barely visible DWEC Wind Farm.
To the Editor:
After holding on to our little bit of heaven (two-plus acres) on Block Island for 17 years, we decided to build our island home.This would have been easier if we lived on the East Coast when we bought the land. However, we live in the San Francisco Bay Area. At roughly 3,000 miles away, we were hesitant. We were introduced to Norris Pike, contractor/builder, and he very comfortably convinced us that he could build it. After seeing his plans and hearing his thoughts, we accepted. This one-year experience has been exciting, easy, and just about stress-free.
Between Norris and Alan McKay, they made it look effortless. At every turn, they delivered exactly what they promised. It has been a pleasure working with them in every aspect of construction. Now that we have moved in and have had the opportunity to entertain family and friends, this house that they built is a charm. Thank you, Norris Pike and Alan McKay.
As they say in the south, “you done good.”
Alan and Sherry Davis
To the Editor:
Every now and again during our hectic summer days out here on the island, we might feel the need for some literary intervention. It could be something to rekindle our pride in our country amidst the number of us that toil to make a living and serve the thousands of tourists that support our daily Block Island lives.
Veterans all over this country take the lead in personal pride protecting the traditions, patriotic protocol and loyalty to our flag, the Stars and Stripes. It is most encouraging when even the non-veteran will take up the banner to do the same, as has happened here on at least two occasions this summer.
I was called to duty a few weeks ago by an elderly gentleman, an old island resident, a non-veteran only because his two brothers had gone before him. He lamented a new, unusual flag at our Town Hall just under the Stars and Stripes. Another call just minutes later from the police department, relaying a message from a veteran who had just noticed the same thing. “Why me,” I would answer, and the rest is history.
A Gay Pride flag was flying over our town hall, placed by the Town Clerk under whose direction I am not sure, although she took responsibility for putting it up and for taking it down just as fast. In her words to me, it was to celebrate the first day of same sex marriage opportunity in Rhode Island. Now, don’t get me wrong here, I would be ready to drink to that also; but I don’t drink. Within minutes, both the veterans and non-veterans realized this as a problem and it was corrected. There were so many ways to congratulate that legislation, but this was not one of them.
I did arrive at the Town Hall with a chain saw on my moped, but only because I was cutting an apple tree when I received the calls. Contrary to gossip at the Town Hall, I was not about to cut either a fiberglass pole or aluminum pole with a chain saw.
The American Flag, Stars and Stripes, the pole and foundation under it are basically sovereign territory, with hundreds of years in tradition and protocol addressing it —especially on public land. Flying the flag at half staff should only be from congressional, presidential or gubernatorial authority. Our flag and pole is not a Christmas tree, where you can hang any decoration.
Now, for part two of a hand shake to a non-veteran protecting our flag and military tradition. A cry rang out at last week’s Town Council meeting to disband the cannon blast at sunset, at Payne’s Dock, aboard the General. The General is an old Army tugboat, refurbished as a civilian yacht with many military memorabilia associated with it, including two small and one large cannon. Apparently the ship was named after an Army general that was a relative of the owner.
The General is decked out with flags and staffs befitting our nautical atmosphere; children, adults, and everyone near the dock take part in the sunset celebration. This includes singing of the “Star Spangled Banner,” the playing of taps on an authentic bugle by the owner as the flag is lowered at sunset. Then, simultaneously as the flag comes down, the sun sets, the cannon blasts the crowd applauds, the boat horns blare. This only goes on for 10 days and sadly the General departs. We understand that this vessel is no longer a military issue and there is a stretch beyond true military protocol, but this entire scenario is a beautiful commitment to our flag, military protocol and tradition. Please note that the exact water where the General sits at Payne’s Dock was once a naval base.
Unfortunately, someone across the pond is upset and offended by a violation of a noise ordinance. The same individual hunts almost every day from November to March with his shotgun blasting over and over, much to my dismay. So much for the noise ordinance.
There is an old saying, “The Stars and Stripes doesn’t fly with a breath of wind, but rather on the dying breaths of those that gave their lives for this country in every war.”
Let us try not to forget that.
Beacon Hollow Farm