Invenergy Heads for Final Approval Hearings

Jerry Elmer

The Final Hearing to decide if Invenergy will be allowed to build its fracked gas and diesel oil power plant in Rhode Island is underway. By law, the most important questions to be answered by the state’s Energy Facility Siting Board: Is this plant really needed (it’s not) and would the plant cause unacceptable environmental harms (it would).

The Final Hearing started on April 15 and is scheduled to continue through December 6. This will give the Siting Board time to hear from Invenergy, the Town of Burrillville, and CLF.

CLF is looking forward to the opportunity to present evidence about why this plant is not needed in Rhode Island and how its greenhouse gas emissions will sink the state’s carbon goals.

Final Hearing Will Show the Plant Is Harmful and Unnecessary

So far, the Siting Board has taken testimony from Invenergy’s witnesses on why they believe this fracked gas and diesel oil power plant is a good idea. CLF and the Town of Burrillville (which also opposes the plant) have cross-examined these witnesses. In addition, the Siting Board has received written advisory opinions from Burrillville and state agencies.

On September 18, 20, and 26, the Siting Board is expected to hear testimony from Invenergy’s witness Ryan Hardy and CLF’s witness Dr. Timmons Roberts on the critical issue of carbon emissions and climate impacts. Invenergy’s witness will argue that building a new fossil fuel power plant is consistent with Rhode Island’s carbon reduction and climate goals. In contrast, our witness will explain how building this plant will increase Rhode Island’s climate-damaging emissions and ultimately harm families and businesses in our state.

This testimony will be crucially important because – in order to grant a permit – the Siting Board must, by law, find that building the plant would not cause “unacceptable environmental consequences.” If the Siting Board listens to our witness Dr. Roberts, it would find that in fact the plant would cause unacceptable environmental consequences. The Siting Board would therefore not permit the plant.

Then on October 16, 17, and 30, the Siting Board is scheduled to hear testimony on whether or not the plant is needed. Witnesses will include Invenergy’s Ryan Hardy, CLF’s Robert Fagan (whose pre-filed testimony that the plant is not needed can be seen here and here), and Burrillville’s witness Glenn Walker (whose testimony can be seen here and here.)

The issue of need – does New England really need this energy? – may be the most important single issue in the case for the Siting Board.

We have shown more than once why it’s clear that the plant is not needed. CLF’s and Burrillville’s witnesses will attest to that as well. And if the plant is not needed, then any environmental consequences would be unacceptable and it would be much, much harder for the Siting Board to grant a permit.

A Potential Delay: A New Aquifer Study

One surprising turn of events in this final hearing occurred at the session on July 25, when testimony was taken from Joe Raymond, Burrillville’s building inspector. Under cross examination by CLF’s lawyer, Raymond explained that the exact location where Invenergy plans to build its power plant might be directly over the Town’s water aquifer.

If the proposed location is over the aquifer, then it would be strictly prohibited by Burrillville’s Zoning Ordinance. (As well, the Siting Board made very clear that it would not grant a permit if the plant were over the aquifer.) You simply cannot build a fracked gas and diesel oil power plant over a town’s aquifer – the risk of contaminating the entire town’s water supply is too high.

Burrillville asked the Siting Board to order Invenergy to do further hydrologic testing in order to determine for sure whether or not its plant would be located over the town aquifer. Invenergy objected strenuously, recognizing (correctly) that this could torpedo the entire project. But they relented when it became clear that the Siting Board was going to order the testing.

The new round of required hydrologic testing is also important because of its potential to further delay the permitting process. After the Siting Board ordered Invenergy to do new hydrologic testing, it also started considering adding additional hearing dates in November and even December. This is important because, with every passing month, new information comes out that shows ever more clearly that Invenergy is not needed.

Join Us at the Siting Board

Siting Board hearings are open to the public (and protest signs are allowed in the hearing room). Attending these upcoming sessions is a good way for the public to show the Siting Board, reporters, and the entire world that the people of Rhode Island do not support a new, unnecessary, fracked gas power plant in the state.

Please join us at any one of the upcoming hearings!

All Final Hearing sessions are held at the Public Utilities Building, 89 Jefferson Blvd., Warwick (Conference Room A on the first floor).

  • Tuesday, September 18, at 9:30AM
  • Thursday, September 20, at 9:30AM
  • Wednesday, September 26, at 10:00AM
  • Tuesday, October 16, at 9:30AM
  • Wednesday, October 17, at 10:00AM
  • Tuesday, October 30, at 9:30AM

Note that Tuesday sessions start at 9:30 and Wednesday sessions start at 10:00.

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