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Narragansett Indian Tribe contract with Invenergy is terminated



“…as of January 19, 2018, the Water Supply Agreement between the Narragansett Indian Tribe and Clear River Energy LLC, executed on September 19, 2017, has been terminated and is null and void,” writes attorney Alan Shoer to the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) on behalf of Invenergy, the company that wants to build a$1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant in the heart of the pristine forests of north west Rhode Island.

Since the announcement of the deal between the Narragansett Tribe and Invenergy over the sale of the water, there has been controversy. The water deal made deep rifts in Tribal leadership public, and put the EFSB in the impossible position of having to decide on issues of tribal sovereignty.

Documents available here.

In his letter to Invenergy requesting the termination of the deal, John Brown, Narragansett Indian Tribe Historic Preservation Officer, writes, “As you know, a small group of persons have wrongfully claimed that they speak for the Tribe and have publicly disavowed the Water Supply Agreement entered into between the Tribe and Invenergy. While these individuals are not Tribal officials and have been restrained by the Narragansett Indian Tribe Tribal Court from representing themselves as such, their statements and actions have created a significant amount of turmoil in the aftermath of our entry into the Water Supply Agreement… That turmoil has been exacerbated by individuals outside the Tribe who are opposed to your project and who are using the actions of this dissident group as a vehicle for that opposition. It is unfortunate that these individuals, who clearly have an agenda unrelated to the best interests of the Tribe and its clear economic needs, have fomented so much dissension.

“At this juncture, despite our mutual best intentions, it seems clear that the continued existence of the Water Supply Agreement will do nothing other than to feed this controversy. While the Water Supply Agreement does not provide for termination without cause, our dealings have been in the utmost good faith. Therefore, I must regrettably ask, in the interest of fairness to the continuing progress of your project, and in order to allow the Tribe to finally resolve matters related to Tribal governance without undue interference by outsiders with their own agendas, that we mutually agree to voluntarily terminate the Water Supply Agreement.

“We sincerely hope that we can work with you in some other productive way in the future in order to bring much needed economic relief to the Tribe.”

Michael Blazer, Chicago-based lawyer for Invenergy, writes in reply,

“Thank you for your letter of this date, requesting termination of the Water Supply Agreement between the Narragansett Indian Tribe and Clear River Energy LLC. We completely understand and sympathize with the issues the NIT has had to deal with, as we have been first hand witnesses to many of those instances which created a significant amount of turmoil, misinformation and misunderstanding. Although the NIT WSA was a backup source of water in the very unlikely event that that our primary and multiple secondary sources were not available, we entered into the WSA not only as a means to secure an additional possible source but to also assist the NIT in some economic manner, even if we didn’t use any of the NIT’s water. The latter sentiment has not changed and we too sincerely hope that we can work with you in some other productive way in the future in order to bring much needed economic relief to the Tribe.

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“Per your request, this letter serves as confirmation that the Water Supply Agreement is hereby terminated, effective immediately.”

Jerry Elmer, senior attorney at Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) responded to today’s announcement, writing, “One of Invenergy’s several untenable plans for procuring water has fallen by the wayside — another sign that Invenergy is not yet ready for prime time – and there are more problems ahead for Invenergy’s other untenable water plans.  For example, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, Rhode Island’s top law enforcement official, has recently stated that CLF is correct that Invenergy’s water contract with Johnston is illegal, and the Attorney General intends to file an amicus brief in our pending Superior Court law suit supporting CLF’s position.

“By withdrawing the water contract with the Narragansetts, Invenergy may be trying to head off the Show Cause Hearing at the EFSB on January 30, but the tactic won’t work.  The EFSB will still hold that hearing because Invenergy’s newly disclosed plan to shift over $100 million to Rhode Island (and New England) ratepayers is still part of Invenergy’s proposal.”

Updated 4:53pm:

Statement from Tribal Councilmembers

“We are pleased to learn that Invenergy has voided the alleged agreement they supposedly had with the Narragansett Indian Tribe for the proposed sale of our tribal water.  The sale of water was never legitimate under the Tribal Constitution, and went against the traditions and values of our Tribe. It was attempted without the knowledge, much less the required agreement of Tribal Members.

“We are honored that the vigilance of duly elected Tribal Council members and other Tribal members, together with support from some allies, has brought an end to this threat against one of our most precious resources – our water. We look forward to continuing our internal work to build a healthy democracy and respect for our laws and the civil rights of all Narragansett Tribal Members.”

Concerned Tribal Members

Darlene Monroe, Member
First Councilman Domingo Monroe
Second Councilman Randy Noka

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This story will be updated.


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.