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Attorney General Kilmartin opposes Invenergy’s power plant plans



Attorney General Peter Kilmartin has announced his opposition to Invenergy‘s planned $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant aimed at the pristine forests in the north west corner of Rhode island. Here’s his press release:

Citing several concerns, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin today announced his opposition to the construction of the Invenergy power plant in Burrillville and his intention to seek permission from the Court to file an amicus brief in Rhode Island Superior Court challenging the plant’s water-supply plan.

“A great deal has changed since the Invenergy power plant was proposed, and there is growing evidence that the power plant is neither needed nor a positive for our economy or our environment,” said Attorney General Kilmartin. “In our role as the environmental advocate for the State of Rhode Island, I believe this power plant is not in the best interest of the State, the taxpayers, or our natural resources.”

Kilmartin cited four specific areas of concern as the reasons for his opposition.

Specifically, Kilmartin believes that adding a fossil-fuel facility the size and scope of the proposed power plant will exacerbate climate change and undermine Rhode Island’s ability to achieve greenhouse gas reduction goals set forth in the 2014 Resilient Rhode Island Act.

Kilmartin also cited the lack of need for the power plant as solar and wind power are increasingly coming on-line. When the power plant was first proposed in 2015, there was evidence that there was a need for the plant, but circumstances have changed with the increase of renewable energy sources, most notably solar which has nearly doubled in the time since the plant was proposed. Solar output now exceeds prior forecasts by an amount sufficient to nearly cover the power to be made available by the contested Invenergy plant.

“Climate change is a reality and rising sea level is already having an impact in Rhode Island. Under these circumstances, the State should not allow the building of another fossil-fuel power plant. Instead, we should focus on renewable energy to generate electricity, thereby decreasing our reliance on fossil fuels,” added Kilmartin.

Third, and the reason Kilmartin will ask the Court permission to file an amicus brief, is the legal uncertainty as to where Invenergy will get water it needs to cool the facility.

Invenergy claims it has a valid plan to obtain its water from the Town of Johnston based on an agreement made in January 2017. Attorney General Kilmartin disputes that claim because Johnston would be reselling water it buys from the Scituate Reservoir, and use of that water is restricted by statute for “domestic … municipal … purposes.” Extra-territorial shipment by Johnston does not constitute “municipal purposes.”

“The agreement to buy water from Johnston would be precedent setting, and in our legal opinion, in violation of state law,” Kilmartin noted. “Perhaps there is no greater or important natural resource than water, and the General Assembly foresaw a century ago the need to properly regulate how municipalities are able to purchase, use, and sell water,” Kilmartin concluded.

The two lawsuits in which Kilmartin will ask to file amici briefs, Conservation Law Foundation, Inc. v. Clear River Energy, LLC, et al., (CA No. 17-1037) and Town of Burrillville v. Clear River Energy, LLC, et al., (CA No. 17-1039) are pending before Superior Court Justice Michael A. Silverstein.

Finally, Kilmartin stated he is deeply troubled by Invenergy’s recently-revealed plan to have the ratepayers pay the bill for the installation of the transmission lines from the plant to the existing grid.

“Invenergy is attempting to have electric ratepayers pick up the tab for the more than $100 million transmission power line costs that the company had previously promised to absorb itself. It’s a classic bait and switch and the ratepayers should not be on the hook for it,” concluded Kilmartin.

The Town of Burrillville, where the power plant is to be located, responded:

“We applaud Attorney General Peter Kilmartin’s well-reasoned and thoughtful opposition to Invenergy’s proposed Clear River Energy power plant.  As the Attorney General has noted – and as the evidence the Town has presented to the Energy Facility Siting Board has shown – the fossil-fuel plant is not needed, would cause undue harm to the environment, would undermine the state’s environmental goals, and rather than save ratepayers money, could lead to rate increases if Invenergy is successful in its attempts to pass on its costs to ratepayers.

“Attorney General Kilmartin has listened to the objections presented by many parties since this ill-advised proposal was made in 2015 – including 32 Rhode Island cities and towns that have passed resolutions against the plant.  He has clearly done his homework on this issue and we encourage other public officials to do the same.  This proposed project is not viable, not needed, and would negatively impact our state in many ways. We need to put a stop to it now.”

Conservation Law Foundation (CLF)’s Senior Attorney Jerry Elmer responded:

“CLF is delighted that Attorney General Kilmartin recognizes that Rhode Islanders should not be saddled with a huge price tag for a new fossil fuel plant our state doesn’t need and doesn’t want. We call on all of Rhode Island’s elected officials to speak out against Invenergy’s costly, reckless proposal.”

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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.