Successful Hearing on Bill That Would Kill Invenergy Fossil-Fuel Plant

Jerry Elmer

The House Environment Committee, chaired by Rep. Art Handy (D-Cranston), held a hearing yesterday evening on H-8240, introduced by Rep. Cale Keable (D-Burrillville). As I explained in an earlier post, CLF strongly supports the bill because, if enacted, it is likely to kill the 900-megawatt Invenergy power plant proposed for Burrillville, Rhode Island.

The hearing was a big success and, I believe, increased the chances of the bill’s passage.

Rep. Keable started the hearing by explaining that, if passed, the bill would give voters in the Town of Burrillville the same right to approve or disapprove by referendum a tax agreement negotiated between the Town Council and a power plant developer that the voters in every other municipality in Rhode Island already have. In this sense, the Keable Bill is nothing radical, or even new.

Environmentalists attended the hearing in force to support the bill. In addition to CLF, representatives were also there from the Environment Council of Rhode Island (ECRI), the coalition of all 53 small, medium, and large environmental groups in the state, as well as several ECRI member organizations. I was honored that Chairman Handy asked me to be one of the first speakers on the bill. In my testimony I used some of my time to refute the (false) argument made against the Keable bill by Invenergy’s lawyers, which you can see in the May 24 Update to my earlier blog.

The hearing room – one of the two largest hearing rooms in the State House – was filled to capacity. Hundreds of Burrillville residents had come to the State House to support the bill (and to hold a raucous rally in the State House immediately before the hearing). So many supporters of the bill were present that many had to watch the hearing streamed live in Rep. Keable’s State House office and in another overflow room downstairs from the hearing room.

To be sure, passage of the Keable Bill is by no means certain. Also present at the hearing were many representatives of organized labor, who support Invenergy and spoke in against the bill.

Nevertheless, on balance, I believe that the chances for the Keable Bill to be enacted went up last night. More members of the Committee attended this hearing than is often the case, and more members stayed for a longer time than is often the case. (This is no doubt a reflection of the huge controversy and opposition that the Invenergy proposal has sparked.) Perhaps most significantly of all, members of the Committee seemed to genuinely understand the purposes and effect of the Keable Bill, and seemed to easily see through the false arguments being raised against it.  Most members of the Committee seemed to genuinely support the bill.

Thus, last night was a good night for opponents of the Invenergy plant, and I am looking forward to a hearing in the future on the Senate-side companion bill, introduced by Senator Fogarty (D-Burrillville) and others.

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