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The specter of Invenergy haunts the Johnston Inauguration



At the Town of Johnston’s Mayoral and Town Council Inauguration, held Monday night in the Johnston High School auditorium, Invenergy‘s top attorney, Chicago-based lawyer Michael Blazer, was sitting front and center. Invenergy is the company that wants to build a $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant amidst the pristine forests of northwest Rhode Island. Invenergy struck a deal with the Town of Johnston to purchase Providence Water and ship it via truck to Burrillville to cool the turbines of its proposed power plant.

Mayor Joseph Polisena was so taken with Blazer’s presence that he announced it to the crowd. [At the 2m mark in the first video below.]

Michael Blazer

As Mayor Polisena, sworn in for his last term as Mayor of Providence addressed the crowd, six people associated with BASE and the FANG Collective, groups opposed to the power plant, quietly held aloft small signs that read, “Gov. Raimondo: Stop the Power Plant” and “Cancel the Water Deal.” Three of the people holding signs stood up. As some in the audience tried to understand what the protest was about, a large man approached the protesters and told them to “Sit down and put the signs away, or leave.

They left the auditorium.

Afterwards, one of the protesters told me that Blazer was present at the reception held in the high school cafeteria directly after the inauguration. “After the event, Blazer was standing right next to the Mayor the whole time,” said one of the protesters to me. “I went up and talked to Blazer for a bit. He said, ‘The power plant will definitely be built.'”

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Though she was scheduled to be at the inauguration and was listed in the program, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo did not attend or provide remarks. Her point person for these kind of events was in the audience, however, so the cancellation seems to have been a last minute decision. Raimondo’s spokesperson Josh Block explained, “As you may know, the Governor was under the weather last week, and she took the evening to rest in preparation for her State of the State address today.”

The Governor’s point person

Polisena spoke for about 20 minutes after he was sworn in as Mayor. Here are some points of interest:

  • Polisena noted that a new company, that will get medical waste and turn it into energy, is coming to Johnston. Polisena is talking about Sun Pacific Holding Corporation, chaired by Nicholas Campanella, who was in the audience.
  • Polisena said that he’s been working with the Governor, the Speaker and the Senate President to bring a “major, major, major, major company” to Johnston. “We’ll keep our fingers crossed and keep saying our Hail Marys,” said Polisena.
  • As for his plans after he leaves office due to term limits, Polisena said, “I’ve been asked about running for another office, perhaps statewide office or coming back in four years… Many have said no, but never say never. In fact, I heard Allen Roogenberg – Mr Roogenburg – is running for Lieutenant Governor. I might have to put my name in.” Polisena mispronounced former Providence State Representative and candidate for Lieutenant Governor Aaron Regunberg‘s name, either intentionally or out of ignorance.

Here are the remarks of the other political speakers at the event:

Lieutenant Governor Daniel McKee
Senate President Dominick Ruggerio
Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello
Superior Court Judge Joseph Montalbano

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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.