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Senator Whitehouse suspects Invenergy’s defeat in the EFSB hearings a ‘slam dunk’



Whitehouse expressed confidence in EFSB Chair Margaret Curran and boardmember Janet Coit: “I suspect that at this point it’s kind of a slam dunk, but we’ll see.”

At a meeting in Cranston a man rose to ask United States Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (Democrat) about his tendency to not come out against fossil fuel infrastructure projects in his home state of Rhode Island. Whitehouse is often thought of as being a climate hawk, and one of the leading voices on climate change in Congress.

“You are reluctant to make a specific stand on these, in the state, because you want the state to run it’s business in a sense…” began the man.

“There’s a part of that but the other part, particularly in respect to the Burrillville facility, is that that’s actually in a rule of law proceeding, an adjudicative proceeding,” said Whitehouse. “Lawyers and evidence and briefs and decision makers and an appeal to the Supreme Court is part of the kind of judicial work the State does. In the same way that it would be wrong for me to stand out – particularly when I’m arguing the rule of law all the time down in Washington – it would be wrong of me to stand out in front of a jury trial and say, ‘Find him guilty ‘ and ‘Lock her up’ and that kind of stuff.”

This has been Whitehouse’s standard disclaimer for years, ever since he publicly dropped his support for Invenergy’s proposed $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant aimed at the fragile forests of northwest Rhode Island when it was learned that every environmental group in Rhode Island opposes the project. But what he said next was a little bit new.

“I have confidence in the Energy Facilities Siting Board,” said Whitehouse. “And I know Meg Curran, I think she’s as honest as she can be. I know Janet Coit, I think that will work.”

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Margaret Curran is the chair of the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB). Janet Coit is the director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and an EFSB boardmember. The EFSB is the Rhode Island state regulatory agency charge with deciding on the power plant’s licensing.

Whitehouse also said that he doesn’t think Invenergy will prevail in the EFSB hearings.

“The process is continuing over at the Energy Facilities Siting Board,” said Whitehouse. “I suspect that at this point it’s kind of a slam dunk, but we’ll see.”

For context: Just over fifty people had been in the community room at Cranston’s Central Library to hear Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (Democrat, Rhode Island) and Grover Fugate, executive director of the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) speaking on the topic of “Preparing Rhode Island Communities for Rising Seas.”

Then, after Whitehouse refused to support the Green New Deal, after being asked to by members and allies of Sunrise RI, half of the people attending left the room. Those who stayed in the room were not necessarily siding with the Senator, however. Instead, they were asking tough questions about his positions on the environment, and asking why his actions don’t always seem to match his lofty words.

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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.