More Controversy Ahead for Burrillville Power Plant


BURRILLVILLE, R.I. — There is little downtime between the recent public meeting and the final phase of hearings on Oct. 31, as procedural hearings scheduled for Oct. 17 will address a growing list of contentious developments.

Water is once again a controversial issue. Members of the Narragansett Indian Tribe are challenging an agreement made by a single tribal leader to sell water to the proposed Clear River Energy Center, from tribal land in Charlestown. Two tribal members testified at the Oct. 10 public hearing at the high school that a majority of the Narragansett Indian Tribe opposes the water deal and is determined to challenge it.

“Our water is not for sale, and we will fight this agreement and we will win,” said Silvermoon LaRose. “Do not count on water from the Narragansett Tribe to support this power plant.”

At its Oct. 10 meeting, the Charlestown Town Council also raised concerns about water withdrawal from the local watershed and other environmental risks. As a result, Charlestown petitioned the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) to serve as an intervener in the power-plant application process and therefore be allowed to hold a public hearing. The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) and the town of Burrillville sent letters to the EFSB supporting Charlestown’s efforts. The EFSB is expected to take up the request Oct. 17.

CLF attorney Jerry Elmer said delays are expected even if the EFSB doesn’t grant Charlestown a hearing, as CLF will likely appeal an unfavorable opinion. The latest water imbroglio, Elmer said, makes Invenergy Thermal Development LLC appear to be “foundering around” in its effort to secure a water supply for cooling. Two water districts in Burrillville and the Woonsocket City Council have rejected selling water to Invenergy, while an agreement with the town of Johnston is being challenged by CLF and the town of Burrillville in state Superior Court.

“If — after all those failed attempts — Invenergy runs into additional problems when it announces a deal with the Narragansetts, that makes Invenergy look to the EFSB and to the whole world like it doesn’t have its act together,” Elmer said. “And it would be an incredibly embarrassing matter for Invenergy if the long-awaited final hearing does not actually start next Tuesday, as promised.”

At that the Oct. 17 hearing, Invenergy is expected to request that the resolutions from 33 cities and towns across Rhode Island and one each in Connecticut and Massachusetts opposing the power plant be treated as public comment instead of evidence. Evidence can be debated at the hearings that are scheduled to begin Oct. 31, while Items public comments get less scrutiny.

Burrillville’s attorney, Michael McElroy, wrote in a letter to the EFSB that the municipal resolutions are relevant to one of the three factors that the EFSB will use to judge the power plant application: unacceptable harm to the environment.

“In these resolutions the municipalities expressly address the environmental effects that are squarely before the board,” McElroy said.

The 35 resolutions refer to harm to property, the environment and drinking water, and address safety measures. The municipalities specifically mention concerns about damage to the Blackstone River watershed and the Scituate Reservoir, as well as concerns about air pollution and the loss of wildlife habitat.

Invenergy also questioned the lack of an expert witness to answer questions about the resolutions. McElroy countered that Burrillville Town Council president Joseph Pacheco, who attended several of the city and town council meetings where resolutions were passed, will take questions during the evidentiary hearings.

Elmer called Invenergy’s decision to oppose the resolutions “foolish” and “ham-fisted.”

“What matters is that Invenergy has today gone out of its way to call public attention to the fact that nearly every municipality in the state is opposed to Invenergy’s fracked gas and diesel fuel power plant. This was unwise,” Elmer wrote in an Oct. 10 email.

The Oct. 17 hearing and all others will be held at the EFSB office, 89 Jefferson Blvd. in Warwick. The hearing starts at 9:30 a.m.


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  1. I appeared before several Rhode Island town and city councils last winter, testifying for resolutions in support of Burrillville’s fight against the power plant, and I am thoroughly acquainted with the rest of the crew who testified before all the others. One theme pervaded all of the council decisions to support Burrillville, loss of local sovereignty, the arbitrary power given to the EFSB to dismiss, override, and otherwise ignore the rights of towns and municipalities to determine their own land use decisions.

    Reform of the Energy Facilities Siting Act is long overdue.

    But the question is: Will the state’s environmental community come together and make that a priority?

    The body to get the ball rolling is the Environmental Council of Rhode Island.

  2. One large issue of concern that no one has discussed yet to the Siting Board is the cost to local and State roadways.

    Each axle of each truck along the delivery route for all the consumables to be delivered and removed from this project site, have an impact to roads. That impact has a cost associated with it. Those per axle unit costs can be calculated using ASSHTO Federal Policy. The Board should be charging RIDOT, or better yet, the applicant, to discover what those unit costs, times the number of axles, times the number of trucks per day, times the number of trucks per year add up to with their respective, cumulative cost. This cost is called ESAL, or equivalent single axle load. Over a short period of time one can start to realize that the ESAL cost becomes a major factor that takes away from the proposed energy savings on the project. This cost once calculated, is actually quite large. The tax payer truly had to absorb these ESAL costs to fix roads and Bridges in the roadways network, not Invenergy.

    There really needs to be done understanding of what the cost implications to roads and Bridges become borne as a result of this project now that trucking is a critical component to it’s operation. This cost must be deducted from the energy savings proposed and added to the overall cost-effectiveness of the project.

    Preliminary calculation will reveal the cost to the tax payer is significant, and this is one of the reasons why Ocean State Power Facility, also in Burrillville, choose to install costly pipelines for water and fuel to their facility 30 years ago. It all comes down to long term trucking cost, the impact cost to roads/bridges and the health implications of the truck transportation impacts.

    The c Siting Board is simply not seeing this information yet and no professionals have offered bringing this concept and cost to the table.

    Simply stated, transportation operations have a greater cost and no one has expired that cost against the energy savings yet or added it to the cost of the project.

    Long term trucking to an operation like this, with the seat numbers involved is enormous and it is difficult to understand why no one is drawing a greater call to this impact?

  3. This issue needs statewide publicity. How can we get more broad-based attention? If the Projo can give front page coverage in their Sunday edition to some minor scandal about mooring rights in Wickford harbor why can’t we get more press for an issue that effects ALL of Rhode Island?

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