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With the final decision on Invenergy’s power plant weeks away, Burrillville rallies at the State House



“We are here today in frustration and outrage at our Senators and Governor Gina Raimondo for not coming out against Invenergy‘s proposed power plant in Burrillville,” said Kathy Martley of Burrillville BASE, one of the first groups to oppose the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure in northwest Rhode Island. “All of these towns, in and around Rhode Island, have made resolutions against building this proposed power plant.

“The people are speaking out. The Senators and Governor are not listening,” continued Martley. “We have been fighting for four years, speaking to Senators, to the Governor, [holding] rallies, getting the facts of this fracked gas diesel power plant, giving the facts about the danger, the hazards, pertaining to Invenergy’s power plant. Now it has been proven that the energy from this power plant is not needed. We can’t afford the impact on our wildlife, environment, air and our health, the health of our future generation… We have not been put first in the eyes of our government. Even though we have spoken our voices have not been heard.

“Rhode Island objects!” said Martley. “We object!”

Over fifty people, mostly Burrillville, agreed with Martley, chanting “We object!” Their objections echoing throughout the halls of the State House Thursday evening.

Cities and towns in and around Rhode Island have passed resolutions opposing Invenergy’s planned $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant, aimed at the irreplaceable forests of northwest Rhode Island. The Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB), is expected to make a final decision on whether or not to license the plant in June, nearly four years after Governor Gina Raimondo promised the company to do everything in her power to make the plant happen.

Though she has since claimed to be neutral on the power plant, Governor Raimondo still allowed her Office of Energy Resources to advocate for the plant during the EFSB proceedings, a clear sign that her administration is not neutral on the power plant at all.

Former director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, Dr Michael Fine, spoke on the adverse effects the proposed power plant would have on the health of people, the environment, and the climate of the earth.

“We are losing species, we are losing trees, we are losing wild animals,” said Fine. “What more do we need before our government says what it must do – which is never, ever, build another fossil fuel plant again?”

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Representative David Place (Republican, District 47, Burrillville, Glocester) was a member of the Burrillville Town Councilor when Invenergy first proposed the power plant. “Every argument [Invenergy] made in terms of building this thing now, in that spot, has proven to be false,” said Place.

“Just a couple days ago we heard that the Trump Administration tried to say that LNG is freedom gas,” said Erica Scott-Pacheco, who is running for Mayor of Fall River. “The only freedom we will have is when we are free of our dependence on fossil fuels and that starts today.”

The current Mayor of fall River, Jasiel Correia, made a secret deal with Invenergy to truck water from Fall River’s reservoir to Burrillville to cool the turbines of the proposed power plant.

“I’m honored and proud to stand here with you. My city did do a bad water deal,” continued Scott-Pacheco. “That’s one of the reasons that I’m running for mayor of Fall River. When I win, with your support and the support from everyone in my town that is opposed to this bad water deal and other bad policies, within my first weeks in office the contracts will be torn up and we will no longer have it. That’s a commitment I make and I make knowing that the City Council’s behind me, because they unanimously passed a resolution condemning this plant, condemning the bad water deal.”

5″I think along with South Kingstown and Burrillville there are
29 other municipalities in Rhode Island that have opposed this project. It’s high time that this project ended. I think our resolution passed over two years ago and I can’t believe we’re still discussing it,” said South Kingstown Town Councilor Abel Collins.

“The big news this past week was that Rhode Island’s going to start sourcing a huge percentage of its energy from the offshore wind industry. That’s going to create jobs here locally and lower electricity prices compared to this investment in fossil fuel…”

“I am a wife, a mother, a nurse, practitioner, a lover of nature and
animals, and now an activist. I didn’t want to be that,” said burrillville resident Irene Watson. “I was just going about my day, doing my usual job raising my family, playing with my horses in the woods but it has been four years – four long years that I’ve been part of the fight against this proposed fracked gas oil burning power plant. I have spoken in EFSB meetings, presented to multiple town councils around the state with 35 towns signing on to a resolution against the plant. Why? Because they know that this power plant will destroy our state.”

“One of the three responsibilities of the EFSB is to determine if a power plant will cause unacceptable harm to the environment,” said Richard Dionne from the Burrillville Conservation Commission. He then went on to quote from all the respected environmental and scientific sources that have noted the importance of the area where Invenergy has proposed to build their plant. Two quotes stand out:

Scott Cummings, associate director of The Nature Conservancy of Rhode Island said, “This is the best example left of this kind of habitat between Boston and Washington DC. Invenergy’s proposal for a new power plant at this pivotal junction would irreversibly disrupt one of the region’s healthiest ecosystems. Building a power plant on this site would have a severe negative impact on what Rhode Island conservation community has long known is a regionally important habitat.”

Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management deputy director of Wildlife, Jay Osenkowski, said, “I would view [Invenergy’s proposed power plant] as unacceptable harm because I believe that avoidance is an option. The detriment to the continuity of that habitat and the species that rely on the continuity to me is avoidable and as a result I think it’s unacceptable.”

“It’s about our ability to have have the freedom to have a clean air and clean water and nature that we can enjoy and communities that we can we can live fulfilling lives in and the ability and the freedom to grow up and to grow old,” said Matthew, a college sophomore and an organizer with Sunrise RI.

“I don’t know what the point of getting education is when I don’t know if I’ll be able to use those skills to have a job four years down the line. When I talk to my parents and they ask, ‘Are we going to become grandparents? Are you going to become a father and raise a family?’ I don’t know what to tell them because I don’t know if I would want to bring kids into a world that’s ravaged by climate disaster and unhealthy air…”

“I want the governor to know that if this plant goes through and people get sick and die from this poison that they’re gonna put
in the ground, it’s going to be on her shoulders, not ours,” said Burrillville resident Ken Putnam Jr. “Because we said, ‘No.'”

“I feel folks from Burrillville have been very kind to the Governor. She should be appreciative of that,” said Nick Katkvich of the FANG Collective. “I just want to let folks know that of course we hope [the EFSB] going to reject [the proposed power plant, but] if they don’t reject it, there’s corruption.

“We all know that there’s no reason to accept this plan, but if they offer a strange reason and they happen to approve it that’s not the end of the resistance. There’s DEM permits and if the agencies don’t stop it we can stop it with people power. I just want folks know that, speaking for myself from the FANG Collective, we’re down to support this resistance going forward and know that the EFSB isn’t the end all of this process. They can end it but if they don’t, we, collectively with our bodies, with our power, with our hope, we can still stop this power plant…”

“Science and common sense tells us we need to move away from fossil fuels,” said Ross McCurdy, a science teacher from Ponaganset High School. “This proposed power plant is taking the exact opposite approach we need to go in. We need to be heading one direction, this power plant is taking us in the exact opposite direction. You guys know this is going to destroy 200 acres of pristine forest in Northwestern Rhode Island. This is a time when we need to be planting trees, not cutting them down. Trees absorb carbon dioxide so where’s the logic here? We’re going to cut down 200 acres of trees that are absorbing carbon dioxide to start burning natural gas and diesel fuel?”

The event ended with a song.

No member of Governor Gina Raimondo’s administration reached out to the protesters and knocking on the office doors had no effect when the rally moved upstairs.

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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.