CLF Lawsuit Could Stop Invenergy Plant for Good

Jerry Elmer

The problems for Invenergy continue to mount.

Today, March 7, 2017, CLF filed a new lawsuit in Rhode Island Superior Court, the latest salvo in CLF’s long effort to stop Invenergy from building a fracked gas and diesel oil power plant in Rhode Island.

Invenergy’s New Water Deal May Not Be a “Done Deal”

I have written before about how Invenergy’s inability to find a satisfactory source of water for its plant may prevent the plant from being built. The company thought it had solved this problem when the Town of Johnston agreed to sell Invenergy its water (at a huge profit). The company plans to truck the water to its power plant more than 20 miles away in Burrillville!

In turns out, however, that the water that Johnston plans to sell to Invenergy is actually Providence water, that would come from the City of Providence. On January 6, 2017, Providence – believing, mistakenly, that it had no legal choice in the matter – agreed to sell water from its own water supply to Johnston.

But, in fact, Providence has no obligation to sell water to Johnston for Invenergy. Any such supposed “obligation” could only come from two possible sources.

First, Johnston Mayor Joe Polisena has spoken loudly and often about a water contract between Johnston and Providence. On this, Mayor Polisena is just wrong. There used to be a contract between Providence and Johnston, but that contract expired years ago.

Second, a 1915 Public Law says that Providence must sell water to Johnston if – and only if – the water is used for “domestic” purposes (like washing dishes or flushing a toilet); by the Johnston fire department; or for “ordinary [Johnston] municipal” purposes. Having Johnston re-sell the water to a Chicago corporation (Invenergy) for use in a power plant in Burrillville is clearly not an ordinary Johnston municipal purpose.

The Plain Truth: Providence Is Not Obligated to Sell Its Water

CLF’s new lawsuit asks the Superior Court to interpret that 1915 law according to its plain meaning. The plain meaning of the law is that Providence has no legal obligation to sell water to Johnston for Johnston to re-sell to Invenergy.

Once CLF gets that ruling from the Superior Court, the City of Providence can refuse to sell to Johnston.

And that may kill the plant. We know that Johnston was not Invenergy’s first choice for water (that was Pascoag Utility District). We know that Johnston was not Invenergy’s second choice (that was Harrisville). Nor was Johnston even Invenergy’s third choice (that was Woonsocket).

If Johnston water falls through as a result of CLF’s lawsuit, Invenergy may be done. Recognizing this fact, the Town of Burrillville filed an almost identical lawsuit at the same time as CLF filed its lawsuit.

These dual lawsuits are just the latest problems for Invenergy. With patience and persistence, plant opponents are slowly chipping away at this proposal for a polluting power plant in Burrillville.

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