Energy

Chicago Developer Helps Fund Pro-Power Plant Group

Group's executive director notes there are no vertical walls around Rhode Island that hold in carbon dioxide and other climate-warming gases

To counter the well-organized opposition movement against the proposed Burrillville, R.I., fossil fuel power plant, a new pro-power plant group has emerged, with backing from the project’s developer.

Rhode Islanders for Affordable Energy was launched by an alliance of building and trades unions and business advocacy groups such as the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce.

Douglas Gablinske, executive director of the new endeavor, said the group will promote its desire for the new natural gas power plant through radio advertisements and newspaper opinion pieces. The group will also lobby state regulators and the General Assembly for more natural gas, which it describes as a less-expensive and reliable energy.

Gablinske said Rhode Island has the second-highest energy costs in the contiguous United States. Opponents of the proposed Burrillville power plant, he claimed, are a vocal minority, while the majority of Rhode Island businesses and residents are underrepresented and pay too much for electricity.

“We need to get the story out,” Gablinske said.

Although the proposed Clear River Energy Center would be the state’s biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, Gablinske said Rhode Island’s contribution to greenhouse gases is minuscule compared to other states and countries like China. He said there are no vertical walls around Rhode Island that hold in carbon dioxide and other climate-warming gases.

“You can try to make [climate change] a Rhode Island issue. It is not. It is a regional issue,” Gablinske said.

New natural gas power plants, Gablinske argued, emit less carbon emissions and can ramp up power quickly to fill the intermittent power from renewable-energy sources. Natural gas power should be the main energy source for the next 20 years, he said, until renewable energy gains scale and energy storage becomes viable.

Gablinske said many of the environmental impacts of the proposed Burrillville power plant are inconclusive.

“I don’t think any of that has been proven,” he said. “Many [opponents] are trying to throw as much against the wall as they can.”

Burrillville resident Jason Olkowski, a member for the power plant opposition group Keep Rhode Island Beautiful, claimed the new group is simply a website funded by Invenergy Thermal Development LLC, the Chicago-based developer of the proposed natural gas/diesel facility.

“Sadly, it is the usual scare tactics and false talking points propagated by those who stand to directly or indirectly make a profit from this plant,” he said. “We know based on expert testimony that the proposed plant is not currently needed to keep the lights on in Rhode Island and will do little if anything to reduce our electric rates. In fact, a similar plant just over the border in Connecticut was just rejected by the Connecticut Siting Council based on lack of need and public benefit.”

A spokesman for Invenergy said the company is providing funding for advertising, which it has fully disclosed.

Rhode Islanders for Affordable Energy shares the mission of The Energy Council of Rhode Island (TEC-RI), where Gablinske also serves as executive director. TEC-RI often opposes state renewable energy incentives and grid upgrades because of anticipated cost increases for ratepayers.

Rhode Islanders for Affordable Energy claims the proposed 1-gigawatt Clear River Energy Center will save ratepayers millions of dollars and fill the energy gap of retiring power plants, such as the Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset, Mass., which ceased operation May 31.

This reasoning follows the thinking of ISO New England, the operator of the regional power grid, which forecasts that 6,000 megawatts from 11 New England power plants are “at risk” of going off-line after 2019.

Power plant opponents, however, note that ISO New England has only committed to buy less than half of the electric output of electricity from the Clear River Energy Center, while a proposed power plant in nearby Killingly, Conn., was denied a permit by the Connecticut Siting Council for failing to show a need for the electricity. That project didn’t receive any commitment from ISO New England to buy electricity. Forward-capacity purchase agreements are essential for proposed power plants to receive funding.

Opponents have also pointed to studies showing that renewable energy, energy efficiency and existing gas-storage facilities will replace energy lost from retiring power plant and will meet near and long-term energy needs.

Gablinske said the decision by the Connecticut Siting Council was risky. “These power plants are shutting down and they are going to be shut down for economic reasons. The day of reckoning is going to come and they are not going to have power and heat.”

On its website, Rhode Islanders for Affordable Energy posts endorsements for the $1 billion Clear River Energy Center from the Providence Journal and the The Valley Breeze. Many are editorials from business owners and business groups.

Olkowski noted that 32 cities and towns and 90 businesses in Rhode Island oppose the power plant.

“What the plant will do is destroy hundreds of acres of forest in a vital area, put the local community, state, and region at risk, increase our over-reliance on natural gas for energy, and make it impossible for our state to achieve our emissions reduction goals set forth in the resilient Rhode Island Act,” he said.

Plans for the Clear River Energy Center were announced in August 2015. Its application is before the state Energy Facility Siting Board. A final phase of proceeding begin in July. Public hearings are expected in mid-to-late October. A decision isn’t likely until January.

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  1. The claims are similar to the promotion of smoking by doctors who are funded by tobacco companies. The group claims that by its very nature more methane gas power plants will reduce electricity costs. This simply isn’t true. The final fallacy is the belief that the protestors are a vocal minority. Well that is not true as well. What was the largest new energy project in 2016? Solar and win. Not gas fired power plants. Those who have devoted their efforts are helping to take New England from the 20th century into the 21st. The end result is similar to the end of promotion of tobacco.

  2. A point not raised in the ecori article is that New England’s electric transmission costs are the highest in the country. THAT is the problem with our electric rates, not generating capacity. While our New England neighbors to the north, and particularly Attorney General Healy of Massachusetts, are calling ISO New England on the carpet and engaging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in an active investigation of the transmission cost bubble, Governor Raimondo and her attorney general, plus our asleep-at-the-wheel business community, are doing nothing. And since our Rhode Island media, too, have their heads in the sand, (or perhaps their hands in the pockets of Invenergy,) it would be fruitful if ecori news broke the story and woke the rest of our journalists up. It is particularly disappointing that our one paper devoted to business, the Provdience Business News, refuses to report this story, or, incredibly, remains ignorant of it.

  3. It is quite simple.  Mr. Douglas Gablinske is reciting untruths.  The proposed fracked-gas and diesel fuel burning power plant is not needed….at all….in any capacity….period.  These people are, plain and simple, promoting this cancer factory for temporary union jobs.  The problem is, this is not a jobs issue.

  4. "Millions in Savings" divided by 1 Million RI residents equals a few dollars per year to the public. Pay no attention to the massive payouts for about a dozen energy execs. Yeah, this is all about the public. Sure.

  5. Another short-sighted idiot. I am SO sick of these rich men throwing their money around to get what they want. They should but this antiquated processing plant in Chicago, leave Rhode Island out of this, we are fine thank you very much.

  6. Paul Roselli and Bill Eccleston state a factual case for opposing the Burrillville Power plant.

    An op-ed article should be published in the Sunday Pro Jo to refute the misguided & erroneous editorial board opinion published on Sunday, June 11, 2017; "New England’s Energy Challenges".

    Set the record straight.

    Maggie Bulmer

  7. The one thing Mr. Gablinske gets right is that climate change is not a Rhode Island issue. Therefore, in order to assess the impact of the power plant on the climate, one has to take into account the full life-cycle of the fracked gas will fuel the power plant. None of the RI regulatory agencies does this and it is why the Energy Facility Siting Board is a farce.

    Fortunately, there are a couple of kids who can enlighten Mr. Gablinske: https://naturestrustri.org/

    If you care about the future and want to stay in touch with reality beyond Invenergy’s bottom line at end of the current , sign up here: https://naturestrustri.org/sign-up-to-stay-in-touch/

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