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Fall River City Council continues to investigate water deal with Invenergy



Steven Camara

The Fall River City Council Committee on Health and Environmental Affairs met on Monday night to discuss the city’s contract with Benn Water, a pool filling service company contracted by Invenergy to provide the water needed to cool the turbines of its proposed $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant aimed at the forests of north west Rhode Island.

Though the committee meeting ultimately went nowhere, due to the fact that there were only two committee members present, City Councilor and Chair Steven Camara and City Councilor Joseph Camara, and there was a split opinion at the end of the meeting with no deciding vote, there was a lot revealed about the water deal between Invenergy, Benn Water and Fall River.

The water deal with Fall River, made on August 17, was unknown to the Fall River City Council until October 21, when it was revealed by this reporter. Invenergy redacted mention of the deal in its filings to the EFSB. Only the Watuppa Water Board, the office of Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correira II and select insiders were aware of the deal before then.

Since the revelation, there has been an election, and a new Fall River City council will deal with this issue – or not – starting in January.

Mark Russo

Providence lawyer Mark Russo was present to represent Benn Water. But under questioning from North Scituate, Rhode Island resident Alicia Ann Kelley, Russo admitted to also be representing Invenergy. [1h24m in video below]

When asked by Kelley to detail which towns he represented Benn Water as opposed to which towns he represented Invenergy, Russo replied, “As I said to the Chair, I got involved in the project because they had to find a water supply, because as you know the local authorities did not want to supply water to the project. So I’ve worked in Johnston, I’ve worked in Woonsocket, I’ve worked in Fall River… I think that’s about it.”

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“When did you represent Invenergy and when did you represent Benn Water?” asked Kelley.

“Benn Water has had a contract with Invenergy for some time and do other transport, logistics and contingent- actually, Benn is the contingent water supply for the project,” replied Russo. “I’ve worked with them since the contract was entered into. I don’t know the date.”

Erica Scott

Fall River resident Erica Scott [29m in video below] requested documents, through a public records request, that shed some light on exactly how the city of Fall River was approached by Invenergy to purchase water. At the meeting she detailed some of what she had learned.

“I… receive[d] documents… that show that the [Jasiel Correira] administration has been working on the water deal since at least April 12,” said Scott. “Tonight I heard that this is a deal that only affects Fall River. On April 12 there was an email, from Corporation Council [Joseph] Macey saying, ‘Just to ensure that there is no misunderstanding, the agreement referenced in this email is not for Tiverton but for a separate community. If I am correct there is no need for further clarification or confirmation.’

“Attorney David Sullivan, a partner at Darrow Everett, a law firm [retained by Fall River] replied and said, ‘You’re correct. The water supply is for a power plant in Rhode Island in Chepachet.’

“That was the earliest email I received [from the public records request],” said Scott. “From the get go it was clear that this was about Rhode Island it’s not about Fall River.”

Scott continued, “On September 25, in an email from Attorney Sullivan to Attorney Macey… ‘Gents, as you know the Benn Water Supply Agreement, references the power plant in Burrillville, Rhode Island. It is my understanding that there will be some filings made with the [Rhode Island] Energy Facilities Siting Board this week that will disclose the fact that Benn has secured Fall River as an additional contingent water source of supply relative to that project. This will be a public filing. I wanted to give you a head up in that regard.’”

The filing released by Invenergy redacted the name of the city, Fall River. The city’s “involvement was covered up,” said Scott.

Joseph Macey

It should be noted that the public notice for the Watuppa Water Board meeting was amended at the last moment to include the potential Benn Water deal. The item was listed as “contingent water supply” with no mention of Burrillville, Invenergy, or the power plant. The water deal was approved by the board on a 2-1 vote, with at least one member of the water board clearly confused by the deal and uncertain about what the deal about.

Things heated up during the testimony of Burrillville resident Robert Woods. [1h01m in the video below] Woods said that he thinks the water deal may rise to the level of fraudulent misrepresentation, which sparked a heated response from Attorney Joseph Macey.

“I know that this city has done everything above board, without collusion, absolutely legally, said Macey. “And I will tell you, Sir, that I resent you coming and taking advantage of the good nature of our chairman to address an issue, which I understand is of significant importance to the people of Burrillville, and sit here and insult the people in Fall River who did this… That was a free, open, publicized meeting that anybody could have gone to. The fact that people don’t like the result or maybe surprised, is no evidence of collusion. None. And I assure you there was none, and I want you to know that as a representative of the City of Fall River, I accept everybody’s comments here as well meaning, in the best interests of Burrillville. But I resent your comments and I think they’re out of order.”

There’s a line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet that applies here, I think.

Here’s the video:

Here’s Attorney Mark Russo with Invenergy‘s Director of Development John Niland in Woonsocket on January 10, 2017, as the water deal there was voted down.

See also:

Stephanie Sloman‘s written testimony for the Fall River City Council Committee on Health and Environmental Affairs.


Fall River identified as Invenergy’s backup water source

In response to Fall River water deal with Invenergy, CLF ups the ante

Opponents of Invenergy power plant to present case to Fall River City Council

Residents from Mass and RI speak out against Fall River water sale in City Council meeting

Fall River City Council wants answers in power plant water sale deal with Invenergy

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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.