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Raimondo breaks silence on CRMC and Jennifer Cervenka



Gina Raimondo

Governor Gina Raimondo declined to answer any of my numerous inquiries about Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) Chair Jennifer Cervenka or National Grid‘s liquefaction project, and also refused to meet with the NoLNGinPVD Coalition ahead of the CRMC vote to approve National Grid’s plans. But the Governor did answer WJAR/Channel 10 reporter Dan Jaehnig after the fact when he asked about these subjcts. In a short two-minutes, Raimondo denied all responsibility for what happened, suggesting that she was powerless and her office useless, at least as it pertains to the issues facing the residents of the communities living near the Port of Providence.

“This is an issue where it’s totally out of my control,” said Raimondo. “Where I stand on this is I think every Rhode islander deserves affordable energy and electricity and we need to move as fast as possible to clean energy. [The proposed liquefaction facility] is being regulated by the federal government. I have no say in it.”

I should point out that “clean energy” is a different term than “renewable energy.” When a politician says “clean energy” they are talking about solar and wind and all that good stuff, but they are also talking about natural gas. When they say “renewable energy” they are not talking about natural gas, but only things like wind and solar. Since many people don’t know the difference, politicians like Raimondo, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and others who support the fossil fuel industry but want to be seen as environmentalists, favor the term “clean energy.”

“What I would say to folks is: Make your voices heard,” continued Raimondo. “Especially the residents there who are worried about the safety, um, speak up through the federal process and make sure that your concerns are listened to.”

As for Cervenka’s possible conflict of interest, Jaehnig didn’t ask about and Raimondo did not volunteer the fact that the Governor replaced three members of the CRMC midway through the Council’s consideration of National Grid’s proposal, in June. As reported by Tim Faulkner in ECO RI, “changes on the council are typically announced closer to January, when the General Assembly begins its session,” according to former CRMC Chair Anne Livingston. The Governor’s action, said Tony Affigne, who was also replaced by Raimondo, left the CRMC, “without any members with strong environmental commitments, and without its only member (me) who knows and understands the South Side community.”

NoLNGinPVD sent a letter to Governor Raimondo and the Rhode Island Ethics Commission detailing Cervenka’s possible conflicts of interest. Cervenka, prior to and perhaps overlapping with being CRMC Chair, worked with John Gregory, CEO of the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce. Gregory testified before the CRMC in favor of National Grid’s proposal.

“I do not [think there was a conflict of interest]” said Raimondo. “She went through all the proper channels. She, I think, handled it professionally.”

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Here’s an example of Cervenka handling things “professionally”:

“So I don’t. I do think, look, this is a charged issue,” continued Raimondo. “People are worried. People are concerned. The right place to take that up is through the Trump administration’s process and be loud and be concerned but direct it in a place that’s going to be useful.”

National Grid’s plans for the liquefaction facility go back to before Trump was president, so the Governor is once more being disingenuous, to say the least. I’ve been writing about this proposal since 2015. And it’s been a racially charged issue since before then. To try and blame this situation on Trump is a clumsy dodge.

Jaehnig asked about the community’s concern that the CRMC hearing process is a “done deal.” Raimondo replied, “It’s not a done deal. Again, as I said, this is not a state issue. There’s not a- I wish I could play more of a role but it’s just not the way it is. So what I would say to people is it’s a federal process and it’s um, you could call a congressman or senator or the Trump administration and make your voices heard.”

When Governor Raimondo says here that “I wish I could play more of a role,” she is once again being disingenuous. The Governor could have testified before the CRMC. She could issue a public statement in opposition to National Grid’s proposal. She could submit testimony in opposition to the plan with FERC, as Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza has done. She could have nominated actual environmentalists to the CRMC. She could have met with concerned residents.

She did none of these things.

Here’s the video:


Community members label National Grid’s Port of Providence plans environmental racism at CRMC meeting

CRMC hearing consumed by public testimony against National Grid’s Port project

The apparent conflict of interest between National Grid and CRMC Chair Jennifer Cervenka

Former CRMC member Tony Affigne on environmental racism and the use of police power at CRMC meetings

NoLNGinPVD calls for the immediate resignation of CRMC Chair Cervenka

Senator Calkin, Representative Diaz first elected officials to call for CRMC Chair Cervenka’s resignation

As more elected officials call for resignation of CRMC chair, Governor Raimondo remains silent

CRMC to vote on Providence LNG plant despite calls for chair’s resignation

CRMC approves National Grid project over community objections

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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.