City Council opposes Burrillville power plant

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At their meeting on December 19, the Cranston City Council unanimously approved a resolution opposing Invenergy Thermal Development LLC’s plan to build the Clear River Energy Center in Burrillville. The Burrillville Town Council, which opposes the plan, sought resolutions of opposition from other town and city councils statewide.

Councilman Steven Stycos, who sponsored the resolution, said the City Council’s main concerns were “the huge amounts of water the plant would need for cooling and the carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuel” that would contribute to global warming. He also suggested that air pollution generated by the plant would reach Cranston.

The resolution quotes John Marsland, president of the Blackstone River Watershed Council, who said the “plant would threaten 25 years of restoration efforts and millions of dollars of investment by the state and nonprofits like BRWC.” The resolution also noted Invenergy has not identified a water source needed for cooling the plant.

Invenergy has until January 11 to report to the Energy Facilities Siting Board, which suspended its consideration of the project after the Pascoag Utility District and Harrisville Fire District ended negotiations with Invenergy, creating uncertainty about a water source for the center.

According to the fact sheet for the project, if completed, the Clear River Energy Center will provide 900 megawatts of energy to the grid, helping to replace 4,200 megawatts that will come off the grid by 2019 as four New England power plants close or retire. The City of Woonsocket is considering a proposal to pipe water to the site of the power plant and is expected to vote on the matter the week of January 9. Invenergy estimates they will need between 100,000 gallons of water on average, but usage will spike to 925,000 gallons a day in the winter on days natural gas is not available and the power plant has to burn oil.

On December 20, members of the Burrillville Town Council, which has little legal jurisdiction over the project, made a presentation to the Woonsocket City Council. According to the Providence Journal, the Burrillville council members spoke in broad terms about the environmental impact of the project, while stopping short of explicitly urging the Woonsocket council to vote against the agreement.

The “Energy Facilities Siting Board,” which has jurisdiction over the project, is a three-member board consisting of the Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission, the Director of the Department of Environmental Management, and the Associate Director of Administration for Planning, according to their website.

According to a fact sheet found on clearriverenergycenter.com, the project is expected to generate 300 jobs during the construction phase, and more than two dozen permanent jobs once the facility is open. The governor and the Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council support the Clear River Energy proposal. According to the resolution, numerous environmental groups, including the Environmental Council of RI, the Conservation Law Foundation, the Audubon Society of RI, the Nature Conservancy, the Burrillville Land Trust and the Blackstone River Watershed Council oppose the power plant.

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