Yet the CRMC voted unanimously to approve the project in 2017 and improperly withheld documents from the public

“You talk so much about the coastal areas. You know what you never mention? The people that rent that are in South Providence on the Port or in that Allens Avenue area. What happens to them when climate change hits?” asked environmental advocate Lauren Niedel. She addressed her question to Grover Fugate, executive director of the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC).

At issue is the CRMC’s approval of National Grid‘s new liquefaction facility in the Port of Providence, back in December 2017. Area residents and the environmental Group NoLNGinPVD opposed the project, but their objections were steamrolled over by National Grid, Governor Gina Raimondo and the CRMC board, chaired by Raimondo nominee Jennifer Cervenka. After days of hearings in which not one member of the public testified in favor, the CRMC voted unanimously to approve the project.

“We are well aware of that risk and we’re trying to deal with it in the process…” began Fugate.

“And yet you approved it!” interrupted Niedel. “You approved it!”

“We did approve it,” said Fugate. “We did approve it.”

“Does that make any sense?” asked Mary Pendergast, from the Sisters of Mercy.

“Okay, to sort of back up a little,” said Fugate, “That was a process that was under FERC [Federal Energy Regulatory Agency]. The reason they came to us was for a very limited set of regulations that we have. We asked NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] whether we could adopt a climate change policy that would allow us, for instance, to ban fossil fuels in the coastal area. NOAA said no, because we can’t take that one action and show that it would have any measurable impact and therefore we can’t put one industry at a disadvantage to another. So, we were precluded from doing that but we did the best that we could.”

This seems to be pretty new information, or at least a new interpretation of what happened. The public testified against the project for hours, yet according to Fugate, the decision of the CRMC was never in doubt.

Moreover, the Rhode Island Attorney General‘s office later determined that the CRMC had improperly withheld documents concerning the case from attorney Seth Handy.

According to Attorney Handy, many of the issues that Fugate claims were preempted under FERC were within the purview of the CRMC, but the public was intentionally mislead at the hearings and stymied in their attempts to secure the documentation needed to make their case.

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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Paul Klinkman
Paul Klinkman

A natural gas tank farm in the middle of Cleveland, Ohio blew up in 1944 with two kilotons of force, taking out one square mile of homes and factories and dropping shrapnel several miles away. 10,000 people were made homeless. Natural gas facilities have continued to blow up since then, but none of these near-atomic scale blasts have been in cities.

Locating any kind of new natural gas facility in an urban area is an insane, incompetent siting decision. Locating the facility on the wrong side of a 26 foot tall hurricane barrier, on land only 13 feet above sea level, begs the question, why was the hurricane barrier built 26 feet high? Also, what will sea level rise combined with some hurricanes on climate change steroids do to the new plant?