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Speaker Mattiello shares his current thinking on the Invenergy power plant and energy in New England



Ed Achorn, the Providence Journal editorial pages editor, has used his pulpit to strongly advocate for Invenergy‘s proposed $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant aimed at the pristine forests of Burrillville. Achorn has lazily accepted the opinions of Invenergy as the basis of his advocacy, and has seemingly paid little attention to the fine reporting produced by his own newspaper on the Energy Facilities Siting Board hearings, which will ultimately determine whether the plant is needed and whether the plant will cause undue environmental harm if built.

You can read some of Achorn’s opinion pieces here:

Editorial: A Kafkaesque hearing process

Editorial: Loss of plant would hurt

Editorial: Surging prices for electricity

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Editorial: Wishing away our energy challenges

Rhode Island Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello narrowly won re-election in Cranston District 15 and then immediately moved to consolidate his Speakership at a caucus meeting where nearly one-third of his fellow Democrats refused to support him.

At his election night celebration party, Mattiello recently told WPRI/Channel 12 reporter Kim Kalunian, “I’m going to have a new policy going forward: news media outlets that treat me fairly and are objective, I’m going to converse more with.” The subject of the coverage is probably not in the best position to judge what “fair” and “objective” means.

The Speaker made good on his promise, granting a half hour interview to Achorn, on Achorn’s podcast, appropriately called The Insiders. The Providence Journal gave Mattiello a glowing pre-election endorsement, and was granted an interview, as a good media deserves under Mattiello’s definition of “objective.”

One quick note before circling back to the topic of Invenergy’s proposed power plant: Despite all that is said below, electricity prices in New England are set three years in advance through auctions moderated by ISO New England. What we pay for electricity next years and for two years after that has already been predetermined.

Here’s the conversation between Mattiello and his media accomplice, Ed Achorn, on that issue:

Achorn: Do you have any concerns about these sky-high energy costs in Rhode Island which seem to result from continued opposition to new plants and increased natural gas pipeline capacity to New England. Is there anything the state can do about that?

Mattiello: The state is trying, and yes, I am very concerned about it and I think, as a state, we’ve been closed minded. It’s an area I think, where we have to be a little more collaborative. People have to be a little bit more open minded, all of us, and I try not to be too judgmental or harsh when I say that. The problem in the northeast and it’s the entire northeast is that our pipeline capacity is too small. When gas goes to bid, especially in the cold weather, the price spikes and you need gas to generate electricity. If the price spikes and National Grid has to buy the gas at a high price, the price of electricity naturally gets higher and there’ nothing anybody can do about that.

What we have to do is, and I agree that we have to increase renewables – I have supported every bill that’s come along increasing renewable energy – I’ve read your comments [Ed Achorn, see above]. We are relying on natural gas right now and we have to expand that supply, until the renewables can take over and that’s going to be a very long time. So we need to expand out gas capacity and our pipeline and bring more gas in, if we want our gas prices to go down, and I believe every Rhode Islander wants the price of electricity and gas to go down.

Achorn: Do you have a position on the plant in Burillville?

Mattiello: I have not, only because I have not been focusing on it. I think we need another plant. I’m not sure if that’s the best spot but I’m certainly not opposed to it either. There’s some local interest that I think you absolutely have to respect but the State has a significant state interest in this issue and our citizens deserve lower gas prices and lower electricity prices so I think it’s something we strongly have to look at. I would probably, without giving it too much thought right now, probably lean towards favoring it.

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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.