Charges and Counter-Charges Boil Over at $700 Million Invenergy Hearing

Wednesday, October 11, 2017
GoLocalProv News Team and Kate Nagle

More than 500 attend EFSB Hearing
More than 500 people crowded into the auditorium at Burrillville High School to voice their opinions on the proposed $700 million gas-powered energy plant. The hearing was the last opportunity for the public to express their position before the Rhode Island Energy Facility Siting Board — the decision-maker on the proposed project.

The power plant proponents (which by appearances was the smaller group) was primarily made up of union workers who support the project and hope to have the opportunity to build the massive project.

"The jobs will be in the hundreds for multiple years, [and] the costs of the project continue to increase. These are what we call 'mega-projects,' even though the technology allows them to be smaller than what's been built in the last 30 years. These are significant -- and technical jobs -- that only the men and women that I represent can perform,” said Michael Sabitoni, President of the Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council.

Dueling Sides

The opponents — complete with the backing of former Governor Lincoln Chafee (who supports hydro energy from Canada), GOP U.S. Senate candidate Bobby Nardolillo, Senator Fogarty, Representative Keeble, and more -- engaged in several shouting matches with proponents prior to the hearing. 

The opponents got a big boost from Rhode Island's largest environmental organization, Save the Bay, which announced its opposition to the project.

Raimondo's position has changed.
Noticeably absent was Governor Gina Raimondo, who initially welcomed Invenergy to Rhode Island and voiced her strong support for the project. More recently, Raimondo has been noncommittal, but did accept campaign donations from Invenergy executives. 

Raimondo could not attend as she was in Oregon for a fundraiser and to speak at the Oregon Business & Industry annual dinner.

Proposed Plant
Opponents Dominated the Crowd, Testimony 

"I'm not just a Burrillville resident, I'm a Rhode Island resident," said Norm Desjarlais, holding a sign with 'Water is Life' on it, in the high school hallway. "We've had enough contamination already, we just had a community in Burrillville lose their water supply this week due to contamination."

"This thing is not needed," said Desjarlais. "ISO New England has proved this is not needed, and not wanted."

Desjarlais said he thinks the issue of the power plant will be a top, if not the "number one" issue in the 2018 gubernatorial campaign.  

"This is a conspiracy to lock us into another 50 years of using fossil fuels," said Desjarlais. "This is nonsense -- this will provide 2 permanent jobs for $1 billion dollars."

Save The Bay Director of Advocacy Topher Hamblett testified at the hearing that the Clear River Energy Center will cause unacceptable harm to the Narragansett Bay watershed and urged the EFSB to deny the application.

Hamblett says the DEM Advisory Opinion is “clear and uncontroverted: The Clear River Energy Center does not belong in the proposed location, an interior forest of high conservation value, vital to the conservation of biodiversity…”

“The proposed siting of this power plant irrevocably damages the watershed of Blackstone River, a major tributary to Narragansett Bay,” Hamblett said. “The threats to wildlife and habitat, forest loss and fragmentation, impacts to at-risk species, and reduced resilience in the face of rapid climate change, are of profound concern to Save The Bay. DEM’s findings require the EFSB to determine that construction and operation of the Invenergy power plant in Burrillville will cause unacceptable harm to the environment."

Emotion, Not Rationale Claims Union

Union truck
Proponents, however, say the environmental groups' claims are false.

“I think [opponents], they're mostly on emotion. They just do not want it.  They don't realize if this isn't built, I'll just refurbish Ocean State Power, which is 75% less efficient which is not going to go anywhere. If this project is built, Ocean State Power doesn't compete with it, it goes behind it -- the most efficient plants due to the new regulations go online first,” said Sabitoni. 

“When you take the emotion out and look at the facts -- [this is] a considerably smaller foot print than Ocean State Power, the generating capacity of energy in this region has been severely impacted with the closing of 3 powerhouses," added Sabitoni.

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    According to the U.S. Energy Department, pumpkins cause major waste issues each year on Halloween. The majority of the 1.3 billion pounds of pumpkins produced in the U.S. end up in dumps and landfills, according to the Energy Department’s website.

    The National Wildlife Federation suggests turning your pumpkin into a wildlife feeder, mainly for birds and squirrels. 

     
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    In order to save some energy (and some money) turn down your house's thermostat a few degrees this fall. You may not notice the difference, but the environment sure will.

    Save on Energy's Brittany Williams says to keep the thermostat at 68 degrees. 

    If you're still a little cold, throw on a sweatshirt. For even more savings, turn your heat down even lower when your family leaves for work school or a vacation.

     
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    "Once you're done, reuse the leaves by transforming them into mulch for your plants or compost them to enrich your soil," wrote Williams.

     
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    If you're headed to the grocery store to pick up food and supplies for your next party try to make as few trips as possible. You'll save money on gas, and have to drive less, making this a perfect way to go green.

    If you can, try to get all your items at one store. This way, you'll use even less gas when shopping.

     
  • Cooking and Baking

    Making changes in the kitchen can help you go green as well. 

    Energy Star estimates that you can reduce cooking energy by as much as 80 percent when using the microwave instead of the oven. 

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    To keep the cold fall wind out of your home, and keep your warm air inside, be sure to seal up any drafts around windows or doors in your house or apartment.

    "If your air conditioning was running non-stop all summer, then you might have unnoticed leaks in your home. Before it gets too cold, check all your doors and windows for drafty chills that could keep your heater running non-stop too," writes Save on Energy's Jordan Craven.

    Drafts can do serious damage to your heating bill, and will be a major drain on energy usage, so make sure to seal them up soon.

    For more information on how to seal them, click here.

     
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    Save on Energy writes, "visit a pick-your-own farm for fresh produce such as apples, pumpkins, and root vegetables. You may even find locations that let you pick fresh nuts such as pecans or walnuts."

     
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    When it comes to getting to work, World Watch Institute says to "consider telecommuting if you live far from your work."

     
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    You can get off most unsolicited mail lists simply by calling 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688).

    Also, instead of browsing through catalogs, look at products online—most catalog companies publish online versions of their products, perfect for saving paper and going green.

     
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    World Watch says "use a water filter to purify tap water instead of buying bottled water. Not only is bottled water expensive, but it generates large amounts of container waste."

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  • Schedule a Home Energy Audit

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    For more on home energy audits, visit National Grid's website. 

     
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  • Reusable Lunch Boxes 

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