Invenergy’s Proposed New Fossil Fuel Plant May Have Difficulty Finding Water to Use

Jerry Elmer

Invenergy’s inability to obtain water for its proposed 1,000-megawatt fossil-fuel plant in Burrillville, Rhode Island, may prove to be a significant obstacle to the plant’s proponents.

By way of background, Invenergy’s pending permit application to the Rhode Island Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB) calls for Invenergy to acquire well water from Pascoag Utility District (PUD) Well 3A, which was closed more than a decade ago due to contamination. There was a major lawsuit in the early 2000s about the contaminated well. One of Invenergy’s “selling points” to the Town of Burrillville was that the company would de-contaminate the well (for the “benefit” of the Town) – and also utilize the newly de-contaminated well water.

In addition, an April 22, 2004, Court Order from that earlier Superior Court lawsuit about the PUD’s contaminated Well 3A requires PUD to get prior written approval from the neighboring Harrisville water district before PUD allows any “non-trivial increase” in PUD’s own water usage.

On August 9, 2016, under significant pressure from local opponents of Invenergy, Harrisville turned down any increase in water usage by PUD for Invenergy.

Then, on August 19, 2016, PUD, also under tremendous pressure from local opponents of Invenergy, voted to deny Invenergy the use of PUD water, including water from Well 3A.

Taken together, these decisions mean two things. First, it shows that concerted citizen pressure can sometimes be effective in eliciting governmental action. Second, as of this writing, Invenergy has no source of water for its proposed power plant.

It is too early to tell whether or not the August actions by PUD and Harrisville will be enough to kill the Invenergy proposal. On Monday, August 22, Invenergy sent a letter to the EFSB saying that it was going to prepare “supplemental information” to submit to the EFSB on its new plans for providing water for the proposed plant. Invenergy has stated that it has a “third option,” but it has never even hinted at what that might be (and it is difficult to imagine what that might be).

Nevertheless, there has been growing media interest in the matter, and folks are beginning to realize that Invenergy may be in real trouble.

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