Local Environmental Groups Unite Against Power Plant


PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island’s most-established environmental organizations joined together recently with lesser-known groups to oppose construction of a new fossil fuel power plant that threatens to pollute the state for decades.

At a March 8 Statehouse press conference, The Nature Conservancy, Save The Bay, the Audubon Society and other organizations made their case for opposing the Clear River Energy Center on grounds that it will degrade the natural habitat and climate. The power plant proposal, submitted by Chicago-based Invenergy Thermal Development LLC, seeks to build the state’s largest power plant, in the woods of Burrillville.

If built, the nearly 1,000-meagwatt natural gas/diesel facility would be the largest emitter of carbon emissions in the state. The application is before the state Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB), and a decision isn’t likely until late this year.

Jerry Elmer of the Conservation Law Foundation explained that as part of its deliberation the EFSB can consider danger and damage to the environment as one of the conditions to deny the permit.

Audubon Society of Rhode Island policy director Meg Kerr described how the proposed power plant would harm one the state’s largest wildlife corridors. She said the fossil fuel power plant fails to conform with state conservation plans. Emissions from the facility also would prevent the state from achieving its climate-reduction goals set by the state Resilient Rhode Island Act of 2014.

“The Invenergy facility is not the right decision for the state or the region if we urgently need to move to a near-zero energy grid,” Kerr said.

Rhode Island chapter of The Nature Conservancy associate director Scott Cummings said the conservation group doesn’t typically make public denouncements of controversial public projects.

“However, Invenergy’s proposed Clear River Energy Center would do such harm to Rhode Island’s ecology and our wildlife and the resilience of climate change that we are compelled to be here today to oppose this new power plant,” he said.

Cummings referred to map a showing a wildlife corridor that runs from the southern coast of Rhode Island to northern New England. The site of the proposed power plant in the northwest corner of the state represented a small red line that appeared as a wall across a narrow choke point in the corridor.

“When you cut off this connectivity, species can’t migrate and they won’t adapt and they won’t survive,” he said.

Save The Bay executive director Jonathan Stone described the damage climate change is having on the ecological health of Narragansett Bay. The Clear River, a tributary of the Blackstone River, feeds into the bay. Stone didn’t expressly oppose the power plant, but said he is concerned about potential impacts on water quality, natural habitat, wetlands and water temperature.

“We have serious concerns with respect to the power plant’s impact on the Blackstone River watershed and Narraganset Bay itself,” Stone said.

Polly Barey of the American Nurses Association Rhode Island focused on the health effects of climate change.

“Increased heat waves, sea-level rise, and increased drought around the globe will aggravate already-existing health problems, increase the onset of new health problems, and in some cases cause premature death. Climate change in Rhode Island and the world is the world’s most urgent problem,” she said.

Rhode Island Student Climate Coalition college student Ben Gross focused on social and environmental justice and the need to transition to renewable energy.

“As students and young people, we are especially concerned about keeping Rhode Island livable for our generation and those to come,” he said.

Mercy Ecology activist Sister Mary Pendergast said it’s critical to keep fossil fuels in the ground to protect public and environmental health.

“We will not avoid disaster by destroying our forests, our rivers and tugging on the strands holding the natural world intact,” she said.


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  1. A BIG THANK YOU to ECRI, The Big 3 (Audubon RI, The Nature Conservancy RI, Save The Bay), Mercy Ecology, American Nurses Association RI, RI Student Climate Coalition and all other ECRI member associations for "stepping up to the plate" in their opposition to this PROPOSED power plant to be located in the northwest corner of our State of RI. The RI Taxpayer dollars that have spent to preserve and protect the forests, plant and wildlife and recreational opportunities for ALL should not be compromised with the building of this fracked-gas behemoth of a monster in this important natural corridor.
    In addition to the environmental advocates, 32 cities and towns have signed resolutions in opposition to the building of this facility. Our Governor and her appointed members of this Energy Facility Citing Board have a responsibility to listen to THE PEOPLE who have clearly spoken out against this proposal.
    Remember Governor, the next election is just around the corner !!!

  2. Odd indeed, Judy Byrnes, for an organization that cut it teeth fighting the Tiverton oil refinery, the Rome Point nuclear power plant and the Prudence Island LNG terminal. Of course, Invenergy has been famously unforthcoming with information regarding the impact of their plant, especially the impact on the surrounding forest ecosystem. We will learn shortly, the 21st, if the EFSB is truly committed to a fair hearing of the data and will order a new round of revised "opinions" from the various state and local agencies with skin in the game. Perhaps more data will move Save the Bay to do the obvious—Save the Forest, too.

  3. Gina, Babe. There are thousands of issues to not move this forward. Do you ever really listen to anything?

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