Editorial & Opinion

The Uprising, September 21, 2018

The Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources “is essentially using an accounting trick to pretend that building a large, new, long-lived fossil-fuel plant in Rhode Island will actually result in Rhode Island being able to meet its targets under the Resilient Rhode Island Act. That is preposterous, and I think the selective use of consumption-based accounting is plainly disingenuous and
Photo for The Uprising, September 21, 2018

Published on September 21, 2018
By Steve Ahlquist

The Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources “is essentially using an accounting trick to pretend that building a large, new, long-lived fossil-fuel plant in Rhode Island will actually result in Rhode Island being able to meet its targets under the Resilient Rhode Island Act. That is preposterous, and I think the selective use of consumption-based accounting is plainly disingenuous and against the intent of our legislature and the previous Governor who signed this Act into Law.”

Timmons Roberts

Welcome to The Uprising for September 21, 2018!

Let’s channel our inner climate wonk! (Don’t worry, after the first item things get easier.)

1a. Invenergy

In the middle of the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) hearings on carbon emissions and climate change impacts of Invenergy‘s proposed $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oi burning power plant aimed at the forests of northwest Rhode Island, Invenergy Attorney Michael Blazer dropped a bombshell:

“We’ve received notification, just in the last few minutes, that ISO New England has filed a request with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to terminate the Capacity Supply Obligation (CSO) for Clear River Unit One.”

This is the first time in the 22-year history of ISO New England that a CSO has been cancelled. Without a CSO, Invenergy’s plans in serious doubt. Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) Senior Attorney Jerry Elmer:

“This means that the ISO is confirming, in writing, in a filing with FERC, that the ISO does not need and does not want this power plant. ISO is kicking this power plant out of the ISO New England system. This is the first time in the history of the ISO that this step has ever, ever been taken. CLF believes that this is a fatal blow to Invenergy. If Invenergy does not do the honorable thing of withdrawing its application, CLF will file a motion to dismiss the application.”

1b. Consumption versus Production based CO2 accounting

Central to the question as to whether Invenergy‘s proposed $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant aimed at the pristine forests of Burrillville will significantly impact our ability to combat climate change is accurately accounting for the plant’s carbon emissions. Rhode Island’s Office of Energy Resources (OER) and Invenergy want to use a flawed version of consumption based accounting.

“The six New England states have a single, unitary electricity grid. Rhode Island demand accounts for only about six percent of New England’s aggregate electricity load,” says Brown University Professor Timmons Roberts in testimony before the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB). “Therefore, if you use consumption-based accounting, and you build a fossil fuel power plant here in Rhode Island, by means of an accounting trick, you account for 94 percent of the carbon emissions against other states’ goals; that is, these emissions are considered as being from ‘out of state’ and those emissions then disappear from our ledgers. In contrast, when you use production-based accounting, you have to account for the carbon emissions produced or created here in Rhode Island.”

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Roberts goes on to present a “simple thought experiment”:

“…imagine that every New England state had statute just like the Resilient Rhode Island Act, so every New England state had laws that called for reducing in-state carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2020, 45 percent by 2035, and 80 percent by 2050 (all from 1990 levels). If you use consumption-based accounting (as OER mistakenly does), then Rhode Island could build a retrograde coal-fired power plant in downtown Providence without violating the law calling for carbon-emission reductions, because – by this neat little accounting trick – 94 percent of the plant’s emissions would ‘count’ towards emissions of states outside of Rhode Island. Sure, the state’s power-sector emissions might increase, but the extent of that increase would be so miniscule as a result of consumption-based accounting that we could still achieve the Resilient Rhode Island Act’s goals even while burning dirty, carbon-intensive coal in downtown Providence.

“Of course, because of the very same accounting trick, Vermont could build a new coal- fired power plant also – because over 90 percent of the carbon emissions produced in Vermont would be accounted for out of state.

“So, too, New Hampshire. New Hampshire could build a new coal-fired power plant in downtown Concord and, by OER’s flawed logic, still claim to be reducing in-state carbon emissions.

“Add those three new coal-fired power plants and New England’s carbon emissions would surely rise. But each separate state would be able to claim – nonsensically, of course – that it can meet its own emission-reduction goals because its carbon emissions should really be ‘accounted for’ in another state.”

Here’s coverage of Tuesday’s EFSB hearing in which Invenergy’s witness Ryan Hardy and OER’s witness Dr Ellen Cool are cross examined on their pre-filed testimony.

1c. The Phantom Power Plant

Until we learned yesterday that ISO New England cancelled Invenergy‘s Capacity Supply Obligation, the company was on track to earn over $46 million, according to Glenn Walker, Burrillville’s expert witness in the Energy Facilities Siting Board hearings to determine the licensing of Invenergy’s proposed power plant.

Invenergy has, for the last three years, promised to produce energy from its yet to be built power plant. When it becomes obvious that due to permitting delays that Invenergy will not be able to satisfy its commitment to produce the promised energy, Invenergy sells its promise to other companies, at a profit.

As a result of the termination of its CSO Invenergy has lost its “right to any payments related to that CSO.” This means that Invenergy cannot sell its CSO for an estimated $20 million in profit.

According to Alex Kuffner at the Providence Journal, Invenergy Attorney Michael Blazer said that the money made from selling its CSO’s “does not represent a profit because the company has spent $44 million so far on permitting.”

Either way, the money comes out o the pocket of New England Ratepayers.

1d. Watuppa Water Board

Because Invenergy doesn’t have enough problems, Watuppa Water Board Chair Robert Pearson revealed at a meeting Wednesday evening that, ““We can take a vote, but I can tell you the board is not in favor of renewing that contract once it runs out, at this time. Unless this board changes drastically.”

At issue is a contract to sell water to Benn Water, a Rhode Island based company that has a deal with Invenergy to truck water from Fall River, Massachusetts to Burrillville, Rhode Island, to cool the turbines of a proposed $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant aimed at the pristine forests of northwest Rhode Island.

The contract was made with the City of Fall River and hidden from public view long enough to ensure that Fall River resident Erica Scott could not file an open meetings act complaint with the Massachusetts Attorney General in a timely fashion.

Scott was present at the meeting to read the Attorney General’s response to her complaint the board, as can be sen in the video below. In the letter, the Attorney General acknowledges that the Watuppa Water Board did not adequately describe the nature of the meeting at which the water contract with Invenergy was approved, among other issues.

2. Coastal Resources Management Council

Rhode Island’s Office of Energy Resources is not the only state agency controlled by Governor Gina Raimondo that prioritizes politics and fossil fuel profits over people and the environment. Providence-based Attorney Seth Handy recently filed a comment with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) about the CRMC’s decision concerning National Grid‘s proposed liquefaction facility to be built in the Port of Providence and opposed by residents who are already choking on some of the worst industrial pollution in New England.

Through an Access to Public Records Act request that was initially denied by the CRMC only to be see that denial overturned by the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office, Handy learned that CRMC Executive Director Grover Fugate was not being completely forthcoming about the scope of CRMC’s authority as it pertains to National Grid’s permitting.

Handy writes:

I question how opportunity has been afforded to all parties to respond and present evidence and argument on all issues involved under Rhode Island’s Administrative Procedures Act, if the Council relies on staff conversations or interactions with federal agencies regarding legal standards typically applied to consistency requests without providing the substance of those conversations to the parties and the public. R.I. Gen. Laws §42-35-9(c).

As indicated in the public comment I filed on November 7, 2017 (attached as Exh D), many of the standards erroneously claimed to be preempted were clearly at issue in this proceeding regarding the consistency determination. The claim of preemption effectively interfered with the public’s rights under Rhode Island’s Administrative Procedures Act. The consistency determination should be reversed for that reason.

3a. More environmental news:

Erik Loomis, associate professor of history at the University of Rhode Island, in The Daily Climate: Why labor and environmental movements split—and how they can come back together

“Rethinking the relationship between the labor and environmental movements is critical for both unionists and greens as they mutually struggle for power in this corporate-dominated era.”

Christian Roselund at PV Magazine: Devil in the details of Rhode Island’s 400 MW renewable energy RFP

“…while Governor Raimondo’s 1 GW by 2020 goal was always a long shot, the details of this latest RFP may put it entirely out of reach.

3b. Port of Providence

4a. North Smithfield versus Nike

After over one hundred residents crowded into the North Smithfield Town Council meeting and twenty people testified against it, and the only person to testify in favor was an out-of-town washed up right-wing shock jock in desperate need of ratings, you would think Council President John Beauregard,  Vice President Paul Zwolenski and Council Member Claire O’Hara would have seen the writing on the wall and killed the anti-Nike, anti-Colin Kaepernick resolution.

Instead, they outraged residents and made national news by passing the resolution on a  3-2 vote.

“You’re going to take one incident and demean the people in this town and say you can’t live here anymore?” asked Town Council Member Claire O’Hara, objecting to those who suggested that North Smithfield wasn’t as welcoming as they believed the town to be. “Then guess what? Maybe you shouldn’t live here, or anywhere else.”

“Since when is standing up for what you believe in not a council issue? If there is wrong being done to our police officers, why wouldn’t I use my position to attempt to right a wrong?” asked Council President Beauregard. “So am I using my position as Council President to bring an issue to the forefront? Absolutely I am. I admit that wholeheartedly.”

As racist as this vote was and this resolution is, what struck me the most was the steady stream of good people who stood against it. The vast majority of speakers were from north Smithfield. No North Smithfield resident rose in the resolution’s defense, aside from the three Town Council Members who voted for the resolution.

“I think that guy [Kaepernick] has done braver and more self-sacrificing things than I ever assumed I would do or have done,” said self-described ‘old white guy’ Stephen Hoyle Jr, who joined the Marines in 1966. “He’s somebody that we should respect and admire and listen to the points he makes.”

“I’d like to take a few minutes of your time to defend Nike and their choice of Colin Kaepernick  as a spokesperson, but more importantly, as a role model for freedom of speech,” said Mary Callahan Cimini. “I would like to ask each and every member of the council, if that is how we want our children to remember us. The Town that felt the need to punish Nike and to disrespect a person of color for kneeling for what he believes in…”

“It comes down to this,” said former Town Council Member Melissa Flaherty. “Colin Kaepernick is using his First Amendment right to free speech to bring attention to the injustices faced by people of color. It’s that simple.”

After a few days of public outcry and national, negative attention being brought to both North Smithfield and (sigh) Rhode Island, Council President Beauregard had a change of heart, kind of.

“I did not expect that my attempt to make a simple non binding request to show a sign of respect for the men and women in law enforcement, especially those who have sacrificed their lives for our safety would be so grossly and incorrectly distorted and misrepresented.”

Not exactly an apology, but:

I called for a special meeting of the North Smithfield Town Council for Monday September 24th. At that meeting I will make a motion to recall the vote on the Nike Resolution.

Beauregard went on to say:

I am not doing this because my views on this subject have changed. I still feel as strongly about subject today as I did last Monday. I am only doing this because of the backlash to my town, the businesses in my Town, the schools and all the residents. I don’t want to drag anyone into my fight that did not chose to be in it.

I take it back. Beauregard didn’t have a change of heart at all.

There is a demonstration planned for outside the Monday, September 24 special meeting of the North Smithfield Town Council starting at 6pm.

Also, can we get Woody Harrelson to play Beauregard in the movie?

John Beauregard

4b. Fung Sign in Glocester

North Smithfield Town Council President John Beauregard isn’t the only person having regrets about racial insensitivity. From the Povidence Journal:

‘Now I regret it’: Glocester man apologizes for Fung sign hung from noose

Rhode Island makes national news twice in one week!

5. Brett Kavanaugh and Robert Flanders

“Uncorroborated allegations of uncharged and uncomplained of misconduct against a judge that supposedly occurred 35 years ago when he was a minor are not a sufficient basis to delay, much less derail his confirmation to the Supreme Court,” said former Judge Robert Flanders, the Republican candidate challenging incumbent Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, about President Donald Trump‘s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. “65 women have come forward to verify that the judge has never mistreated them or other women, and the statute of limitations has long since run out on any criminal or civil claims that could possibly arise from such untimely and stale allegations.”

The Rhode Island National Organization for Women (RI NOW) responded, “…Flanders should be ashamed for suggesting that a credible sexual assault allegation against President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court is not even worthy of consideration. RI NOW is glad that the nominee did not assault 65 of the approximately 125 million women in the US, but that does not change the nature of the allegations by one brave woman. Mr Flanders shows callous disregard for a woman who says she was assaulted as a young teenage girl and has lived with that trauma for decades. Clearly Mr Flanders will stop at nothing to carry out President Trump’s agenda, even if it means going out of his way to tear down the voices of women and declining to hold his fellow Republicans accountable for allegations of sexual misconduct.”

Flanders modified his view enough for RI Future‘s Bob Plain to note it, saying, “I agree with Senator Graham that the committee should hear directly from the accuser so the public can know all the facts.”

But Flanders wasn’t done. He went on the Dan Yorke State of Mind television show to say, “You know, I’d feel differently about this Dan, if it was truly a #MeToo situation where there were a raft of women making similar charges, as we had in the Weinstein and the Matt Lauer situations. What’s different about this is this is a single isolated accusation that really is uncorroborated by the only person who was a witness to it who says it was nonsense and it didn’t happen.”

This led State Senator Gayle Goldin (Democrat, District 3, Providence) to write:

“Mr Flanders’ suggestion that Dr Blasey Ford’s serious allegation should be discounted as not ‘truly a #MeToo situation’ because there’s only one alleged victim is another insult to this brave woman who has come forward at great personal risk to her family and career to bring her story to the American people. This is one of the most important moments of the #MeToo movement in the eyes of women everywhere, especially the survivors of sexual harassment and assault.

“A proper FBI investigation into Dr Blasey Ford’s allegation of an attempted rape that happened when she was a 15-year-old girl is not akin to an investigation of playground name calling, as the Republican candidate suggests. Mr Flanders is attempting to minimize the voices of women to provide cover for President Trump to jam through a Supreme Court nominee who would roll back women’s rights. Mr Flanders seems to be clueless about the impact of sexual assault on women, so let me be clear: women, regardless of political party, do not want our bodies touched without our consent, nor our voices silenced. The women of Rhode Island will send a message to Mr Flanders at the polls in November.”

6. Rhode Island Democratic Party Platform

On Sunday evening the Rhode Island Democratic Party Platform Committee held their seventh and last meeting to approve the 2018 Rhode Island Democratic Party Platform.

“It is very clear what the Democratic Party stands for in Rhode Island, and we now have a document that – doesn’t matter what part of the Party you’re from – you can get behind and make the case why Democrats are a better choice than Republicans and Independents, coming up on November 6,” said Rhode Island Democratic Party Executive Director Kevin Olasanoye.

7. Political Twitter

Despite the fact that on March 23 a Federal Judge in New York ruled that when President Donald Trump “blocked seven plaintiffs from viewing and replying to his posts, he violated the First Amendment” politicians in Rhode Island routinely block constituents they care nothing about on the social media platform. Representative Michael Chippendale (Republican, District 40, Coventry, Foster Glocester) blocks me, for instance.

When Lindsay Crudele, a resident of Dorchester Massachusetts, discovered that she had been blocked on Twitter by the Republican candidate for Governor of Rhode Island, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, filed a public record request for Fung’s Twitter block list.

Elected officials who block citizens from access to government feeds pose a risk to constituents: for instance,” said Crudele. “What if I were unable to access crisis information for my senior parents – because Mayor Fung disagrees with my political views? As the founder and former director of the City of Boston’s social media program, I take this risk very seriously. As I’ve noted below, a Federal court recently ruled that Mayor Fung’s online behavior is a violation of the First Amendment.”

8. Justin Katz

Justin Katz is the research director for the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity.

In other words: Is it real or all in your heads?

9. Luis Daniel Muñoz

Luis Daniel Muñoz, independent candidate for Governor of Rhode Island, says WPRI/Channel 12 is discriminating against him by not allowing him on stage during the first gubernatorial debate of the year. Only incumbent Governor Gina Raimondo, her Republican challenger Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and Independent candidate Joseph Trillo will be allowed on stage.

Also not allowed into the debate are the Compassion Party candidate Anne Armstrong and Moderate Party candidate William Gilbert.

“Over the past several months, WPRI has provided coverage to two independent candidates, and a moderate party candidate, but chose to deny me that opportunity. The lack of inclusion in the upcoming televised debate only reinforces my earlier concerns regarding potential discrimination,” writes Muñoz.

Muñoz also notes that in 2014, “WPRI made an exception to their enforcement of the exclusion criteria by including Mr Robert Healey in the televised gubernatorial debate, while he had not fulfilled a similar criterion (i.e., he had not raised sufficient campaign funds).”

10a. Steven Frias vs Nicholas Mattiello

Embattled Conservative Democratic Nicholas Mattiello, who represent House District 15 in Cranston as Speaker of the House, “misled the public” during a televised WPRI/Channel 12 debate on November 4, 2016 says his equally conservative Republican challenger Steven Frias.

“At the time of the debate, either Mattiello knew that Mr Britt and Mr Jerzyk had played a role in the Lawton mailer and he was trying to cover it up, or Mr Britt and Mr Jerzyk had lied to Mattiello about their involvement with the Lawton mailer. The most logical answer is that at the time of the debate, Mattiello knew his campaign team had coordinated with Lawton. If Mr Britt and Mr Jerzyk had lied to Mattiello about the Lawton mailer, then why would Mattiello have hired Mr Jerzyk to work again on his campaign or allowed the Rhode Island Democratic Party, which is controlled by Mattiello, to hire Britt earlier this year? When it comes to the Lawton mailer, the simple question is: What did the Speaker know and when did he know it?”

10b. Mattiello’s support is dwindling

Even if Nicholas Mattiello defeats Steven Frias, he isn’t guaranteed to be Speaker. Rhode Island Public Radio‘s Ian Donnis reports that:

Representatives Moira Walsh (Democrat, District 3, Providence), Mary Messier (Democrat, District 62, Pawtucket), Jason Knight (Democrat, District 67, Warren), Raymond Hull (Democrat, District 6, Providence) and Deborah Ruggiero (Democrat, District 74, Jamestown) will not support Mattiello for Speaker.

Representative John Lombardi (Democrat, District 8, Providence) is openly challenging Mattiello for the Speakership.

11. Hurricane of ’38 — 80th Anniversary at the Providence Daily Dose

12. Ocean State Against Hate

Alt-Right Fascist organizations, including Resist Marxism and the Proud Boys, are coming back to Providence, Rhode Island on Saturday, October 6th, starting at 10 AM at the Rhode Island State House. Here’s what happened last time.

13. Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

“Governor [Gina] Raimondo remains laser focused on creating jobs and improving Rhode Island’s economy,” says Raimondo spokesperson Mike Raia, a lot.

“I have focused relentlessly on implementing policies that stimulate job growth at current Rhode Island businesses and bring new job opportunities to residents,” writes Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello on his campaign website.

But are jobs really the answer to our economic issues? From the New York Times:

Americans Want to Believe Jobs Are the Solution to Poverty. They’re Not.

14. Tipped Minimum Wage

David Cooper at the Economic Policy institute explains that tipped workers do better in ‘one-fair-wage’ cities and that restaurants continue to thrive.

“…evidence overwhelmingly indicates that in one-fair-wage cities and states—where tipped workers are paid the regular minimum wage regardless of tips—tipped workers receive higher take-home pay, customers still tip, and restaurants big and small are operating successfully…”

15. HMB Endeavour found?

The HMB Endeavour, the ship James Cook to to Australia, may have been discovered off the coast of Newport, Rhode Island.

16. Picture of the Week:

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