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Invenergy’s lawsuit against National Grid may put ‘tens of millions’ of construction costs on ratepayers



Jerry Elmer

There will be both a hearing and an open meeting of the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) Tuesday morning, December 12, starting at 9:30am. (see below for full details)

Of special interest is Invenergy’s Director of Development John Niland’s letter to the board. In the letter, Niland revealed that Invenergy is suing, through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), both ISO New England and National Grid. At issue is Invenergy’s claim that connecting their proposed power plant will cost the company too much money. Invenergy wants to pass the cost of connecting the power plant to the grid onto Rhode Island ratepayers. In the letter Niland says such costs will be in the “tens of millions of dollars.”

“The two lawsuits pending at FERC show that Invenergy’s proposed power plant cannot and will not ever be built,” said Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) Senior Attorney Jerry Elmer about the letter sent to the EFSB this morning. “If Invenergy wins the lawsuits, Invenergy will be transferring hundreds of millions of dollars of costs onto electricity ratepayers, something the State of Rhode Island would never allow.

“If Invenergy loses the lawsuits, Invenergy would have to post bonds of hundreds of millions of dollars before getting its building permits, something that Invenergy neither can do nor ever would do. In either case, we now know that Invenergy’s proposed fracked gas and diesel oil power plant will not be built.”

John Niland

In his letter to the EFSB, Niland tried to downplay the enormous impact the two lawsuits will have on the project, saying, “Invenergy will continue to diligently pursue all the activities required to obtain the necessary permits in a timely manner.”

Niland claims that his letter was written “to provide” updates to the EFSB “as soon as possible” but also admitted that his letter was in response to “several comments that were made by CLF and the Town of Burrillville during the hearings held on March 27, 2017, where it was stated that Invenergy had ‘failed to reach an agreement with National Gird…’”

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“Invenergy has a disclosure problem,” said Elmer. “Invenergy knew of its legal obligation to pay for the interconnection costs approximately three years ago, on January 8, 2015 – but Invenergy only informed the EFSB a week ago (on Dec. 1, 2017) that its refusal to pay those costs is now holding up the entire project.” [Source of the Jan. 8, 2015 date: See attached letter, page 4, first two complete paragraphs on the page.]

Elmer also noted that the proposed date for the power plant’s opening has been quietly pushed back to 2021, but, CLF contends, due to the FERC lawsuits, an opening in 2021 is impossible:

“Invenergy has a disclosure problem,” said Elmer. “In Public Meetings in Charlestown [on December 5] and in Burrillville [on December 6], Invenergy’s John Niland announced that Invenergy had a third new date to be up and running – not 2019, as originally promised; not 2020, as later promised; but June 1, 2021. [Source: See attached letter, page 7, second complete paragraph on the page.] But information from these two lawsuits at FERC show that Mr Niland was lying again, and Invenergy actually cannot be up and running in 2021. Why can’t Invenergy ever be honest with the people of Rhode Island?”

You can read the full letter from the CLF here.

The EFSB will conduct two hearings on Tuesday, December 12. At the first hearing, beginning at 9:30am, the EFSB will take up the following motions concerning Invenergy’s $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant aimed at the heart of the pristine forests of north west Rhode Island. At this hearing the EFSB will hear arguments from lawyers in support of or against the various motions.

  • The Town of Burrillville filed a Motion Seeking an Order of the EFSB Requiring an Independent Environmental Impact Document and Appointing an Independent Environmental Expert to Evaluate the Adverse Environmental Impacts of Invenergy’s Proposed Power Plant.
  • Invenergy filed a Motion for Protective Treatment of Confidential Information contained in an attachment to the Supplemental Testimony of John Niland.
  • The Town of Charlestown filed a Motion for Clarification/Instructions and/or for an Extension.
  • The Town of Charlestown filed a Motion for Funding as an Affected Community.

Immediately following the conclusion of the hearing the EFSB plans to hold an Open Meeting, scheduled for 10:30am. At an open meeting the members of the EFSB, Chair Margaret Curran and board members Janet Coit and Parag Agrawal, will discuss aspects of the docket. The public and the lawyers will be allowed to observe, but not speak.

At this meeting the EFSB will take up the following:

  • Docket SB-2015-06 Invenergy Thermal Development LLC’s Application to Construct the Clear River Energy Center Power Plant in Burrillville, RI
  • The Board will discuss the Contingent Water Supply Plan dated September 28, 2017 involving the removal and transport of water from the Narragansett Indian Tribe’s Settlement Lands in Charlestown, RI
  • The Board will discuss the contents of a letter dated December 1, 2017 letter from John Niland, Director of Business Development for Invenergy, filed with the Board on December 4, 2017.
  • Upon conclusion of the Board’s discussion of the Contingent Water Supply Plan and Invenergy’s December 1, 2017 letter, the Board may vote on procedural and/or scheduling matters.

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About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.