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If Invenergy builds a power plant in northwest Rhode Island, this is what we lose…



Representatives from environmental, tourism and conservation groups gathered at Pulaski State Park Tuesday afternoon to warn Rhode Islanders that Invenergy‘s proposed $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant would have “wide-ranging and devastating consequences” if built.

Save The Bay, the Nature Conservancy, the Audubon Society, the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council, the Metacoment Land Trust and an Eagle Scout joined with the Burrillville Conservation Commission in opposition to the proposed power plant. The plant, if built, will cause forest fragmentation that will have an incremental deadly effect on the environment. Construction and operation of the plant would cause permanent damage to the area and pose “unacceptable risks” to the Narragansett Bay Watershed.

What’s at stake?

  • 26.6 square miles, 17,082 acres across Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island
  • Last contiguous forest along the eastern seaboard
  • Irreplacable deep wood mature canopy
  • Critical corridor of unfragmented forest
  • Protected farms, fields and forests preserved through taxpayer initiatives
  • One of Rhode Island’s most valuable ecological areas
  • High quality Clear River and Branch River watersheds
  • Shrubs and streams that act as filters for Narragansett Bay
  • Camping, boating and recreational tourism activities

On the site Invenergy hopes to build there are:

  • 47 species of greatest conservation need
  • 17 state listed species
  • 10 species of concern
  • 4 threatened species
  • 2 protected species
  • 1 endangered species

The ecosystem impacts include:

  • Forest fragmentation
  • Irreversible disruption of an essential pinchpoint
  • The undermining of wildlife corridor integrity
  • The destruction of irreplaceable habitat
  • Permanent risk and unacceptable harm to Narragansett Bay watershed
  • The obliteration and degradation of special aquatic sites
  • The release of 7.2 billion pounds of CO2 each year
  • It will make reaching the Resilient  Rhode Island goals impossible
  • It will contradict 50 years of conservation investment
  • Jeopardize $100,000 in tourism each year

Pulaski State Park is just under two miles from the proposed Invenergy power plant site, and has many of the same features.

“Remember that this forest belongs to all of us, and to our children,” said Kevin Cleary, chair of the Burrillville Conservation Commission. “Once the forest is gone – it’s gone forever. Trading this land area through the mitigation process for another green space will not save the species that call this their home.”

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“,Rhode Island must not sacrifice these scarce, undeveloped areas that are so critical to a healthy Narragansett Bay, which is the heart of our State and beloved by residents and visitors alike,” said Topher Hamblett of Save The Bay. “Save The Bay again calls on the Rhode Island Energy facilities Siting Board to deny Invenergy’s application.”

“Connectivity becomes even more important as our climate changes,” said Tim Mooney from The Nature Conservancy. “As temperature and precipitation patterns shift, many species will need to seek new suitable habitat. When habitat connectivity is cut off, species that can’t migrate or adapt will not survive..”

“The site where the Invenergy plant will be located is within a critical wildlife corridor,” said Meg Kerr from the Rhode Island Audubon Society. “The power plant will disrupt the integrity of the corridor and light pollution from the plant will disturb bird migrations. Birds use stars to navigate… Audubon opposes the Invenergy Power Plant because climate change is the existential threat facing wildlife and people.”

“Once a place is destroyed, it is impossible, or certainly very expensive, to retrieve.” said Robert Billington, director of the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council. “Burrillville is the place in Blackstone Valley where peace and tranquility can be found sitting on a rock next to a pond, walking down a wooded trail or paddling across Wallum Lake.”

“The proposed Invenergy plant, its auxillary operations and the pollution it generates will disrupt, harm and eventually destroy this open space and habitat that has been accumulated, acre-by-acre, over generations,” said Lisa Mosczynski, president of the Metacomet Land Trust. “Thos indeed, is a forest in jeopardy.”

“Buck Hill has been a place for thousands of Scouts from the Narragansett Council to visit and explore for many years,” said Eagle Scout Kyle Peterson. “The  various trails with beautiful scenic views have given Scouts the opportunity to explore this untouched wilderness. However, the construction of this power plant changes the game…”

Richard Dionne introduces the Walk in the Woods:

The walk was led by Kevin Cleary and Paul Dolan, one of Rhode Island’s most respected foresters. Kate McPherson was on hand to help identify bird calls.

On the walk we learned about beavers, amphibians, dragonflies and the fragility of what we are trying to protect, or destroy. The movie and pictures below gives a flavor of the walk:

Final hearings to decide the fate of the Invenergy power plant resume July 19 at the Energy Facilities Siting Board in Warwick.

Beaver’s built this

Beavers got this tree

Beavers built this small pond

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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.