CLF’s Latest Action To Stop the Invenergy Fossil-Fuel Plant

Jerry Elmer

Today CLF filed, with the Rhode Island Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB), a Motion to Dismiss the application of Invenergy for a permit to build a new 900-megawatt (MW) fossil-fuel power plant in Burrillville, Rhode Island.

You can see more about Invenergy’s proposal here; and you can see the full text of CLF’s newly filed motion trying to get have Invenergy’s entire case thrown out, here.

CLF’s Motion relies in part on the provisions of the Resilient Rhode Island Act, enacted by the Rhode Island General Assembly in 2014. [See CLF’s Motion at page 2 and 6-7.] The Resilient Rhode Island Act declares that it is the public policy of Rhode Island to reduce annual statewide carbon emissions to 10% below 1990 levels by 2020, 45% by 2035, and 80% below 1990 levels by 2040.

In its Motion to close the Invenergy docket, CLF explains that Invenergy’s application to the EFSB is incomplete because the application fails to address these requirements. The law that created the EFSB and the EFSB’s own rules require that permit applications must be complete when they are filed, and that incomplete applications will be rejected. Invenergy’s failure to address the climate impacts of its proposed plant is especially troubling in light of the fact that, as I discussed here, Invenergy wants to build two separate on-site oil tanks of one million gallons each – and, after coal, oil is the dirtiest, most polluting fuel used in New England to generate electricity. In fact, as CLF explains [Motion, pages 5 and 7-8], Invenergy fails to mention how it plans to control any of its unhealthy air pollution, let alone its climate-warming carbon emissions.

CLF’s Motion to close the EFSB docket is the first time that any organization or person has sought to prevent construction of a new fossil-fuel plant using the Resilient Rhode Island Act.

Perhaps most interestingly, CLF explains to the EFSB exactly why Invenergy is trying to stampede the EFSB into a hurried decision based on an incomplete application. [Motion, pages 10-13.] Invenergy made a decision to take on a so-called “Capacity Supply Obligation” (CSO) from New England’s regional grid operator, ISO-New England, before Invenergy had any of permits required to build its proposed plant. The CSO means that, by June 1, 2019, Invenergy’s plant must be up and running and ready to supply energy to the regional grid.

If Invenergy does have its plant operational by June 1, 2019, Invenergy gets tens of millions of dollars a year from the ISO-run energy markets in so-called “capacity payments.” If Invenergy does not have its plant operational by June 1, 2019, the company stands to forfeit tens of millions of dollars of bonding it put up with the ISO.

Not all companies that build power plants in New England choose to do things in that order. But Invenergy did – and now Invenergy should be forced to live with the consequences of its own decision. As CLF says in the Motion it filed today at the EFSB [page 12]:

The short of it is this: Invenergy chose to participate in the upcoming auction [that is, get a CSO] before it had any of the permits required for its proposed plant, and, as a result, Invenergy is now trying to stampede the EFSB into processing its (Invenergy’s) application prematurely, even while that application is facially incomplete in multiple respects. But the EFSB is not required to accede to Invenergy’s improper demand.

CLF is using the law – including, for the first time ever, the new Resilient Rhode Island Act – to try to prevent the Invenergy plant from being built. But as I explained in an earlier blog, there are significant political aspects to this case, and there are multiple things that everyone (including non-lawyers) can do to help stop this new fossil-fuel plant from getting built. Please go to this link and send a message to Rhode Island leaders.

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4 Responses to “CLF’s Latest Action To Stop the Invenergy Fossil-Fuel Plant”

  1. Eugenia Marks

    Congratulations to Jerry Elmer, Trish Jedele, Max Green and others at CLF for applying the law that the RI General Assembly passed. We hope that the law is more than “a suggestion” as some appear to believe. We support CLF for providing the legal expertise to enforce the work that scientists and advocates brought to our legislature for beneficial public policy. Thanks to all, including Jerry Elmer, Meg Kerr, and Timmons Roberts for testimony and advocacy that passed the Resilient RI Act.

  2. Interested Party

    The Invenergy application includes an analysis of the project emissions (see section 6.1.2,) the potential project impacts on Rhode Island emissions targets (see section 7.2.4), and an analysis of the project conformance with RI energy policy (see section 8).

    • Jerry Elmer

      CLF’s Motion asks the EFSB to close the Invenergy docket because the Invenergy application is incomplete. The unnamed “Interested Party” seems to suggest that CLF is mistaken that the application is incomplete, and cites three specific sections of Invenergy’s 471-page application to support that view. But none of these three sections contradict what is in CLF’s Motion. Let’s take a look at each of the three sections that Interested Party refers to.

      Section 6.1.2 is, in fact, entitled “Facility Emissions,” but CLF’s discussion of this section is completely accurate: this Section does not address climate impacts and it does not address the Resilient Rhode Island Act. In fact, CLF’s Motion [at page 5, lines 3 to 5] quotes this exact section of the Invenergy application, because Invenergy does not even identify what equipment it plans to use. Instead, this section says: “The equipment specifications and emissions information are based on . . . information provided to date by the potential equipment manufacturers, including GE, Siemens and MHI . . . . The actual equipment vendors for the Project, the Facility design and layout, the equipment specifications, and the emissions rates of each pollutant from each emission source are all subject to change as the Project design advances.” [Emphasis supplied.]

      Section 7.2.4 is, in fact, entitled “Impact on Rhode Island Emissions Goals,” but it does not discuss nor even mention any Rhode Island-specific emission-reduction goals. Instead, this section purports to show emission reductions for all six New England states and New York[!] combined – but the figures in this section are worthless, because Invenergy fails to explain what these purported reductions are compared to. If the comparison is actually to the purported 28% level of existing coal and oil production in New England that Invenergy (falsely) claims [Invenergy Oct. 28 cover letter to EFSB, page 3] is the current New England fuel mix, the comparison is invalid, because the current New England fuel mix is only 6% coal and oil, combined. (But, as I said, it is impossible to tell from the application what comparison Invenergy intends, because it does not say.) In any event, the Resilient Rhode Island Act speaks of Rhode Island-specific state emission-reduction goals, and neither this section of the Invenergy application nor any section even mentions this issue.

      Finally, Section 8.0 is entitled “Conformance With Rhode Island Energy Policy.” I am well familiar with the state’s Energy Policy, as I was on the Advisory Board that helped to develop the Policy. According to the state’s Energy Policy, one of the major problems Rhode Island faces is over-reliance on natural gas. This is identical to one of the major problems that ISO-New England has identified for the entire six-state New England electricity grid: over-reliance on natural gas. Of course, building a new natural gas plan exacerbates this problem.

      This can all be summed up quite succinctly. CLF asked the EFSB to dismiss the Invenergy Docket, because Invenergy has failed to provide required information. “Interested Party” mentions three sections of the Invenergy application where the section titles mention some of the required topics, but the required information is just not present. CLF’s Motion To Dismiss is completely correct and accurate.

  3. Joseph Randle

    How can this power plant have capacity obligation for June 1 2019 when the ISO has yet to run that capacity auction? That auction will run in February 2016. Check your facts.

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