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Timmons Roberts testifies before the EFSB on proposed power plant



“It’s really a moral issue,” said Brown University Professor Timmons Roberts during cross examination before the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) last Thursday. “We need to stop building these. We’re not going to solve this problem if we keep building these. If we keep deferring action on the most pressing problem that we face as a species.”

Roberts took the stand as an expert witness for Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) on the issue of CO2 and climate change effects should Invenergy be successful in their bid to build a $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant in the pristine forests of northwest Rhode Island.

“We’re building a long lasting, large piece of infrastructure that could be around for 20, 30, 40 years – I know power plants that are still running in the United States that are 60 years old,” said Roberts, who endured a very long cross examintion that lasted about four hours with two breaks. “That’s detrimental to our 100 percent renewables that is needed. I think that any diesel use makes it worse. It makes it far worse. We really don’t know – they could be filing amendments to their permit in five years saying they need to turn on their diesel units which are double, almost, the emission rate [of gas].

“Even if it’s the most efficient [gas] plant, it’s still taking us in the wrong direction.”

A lot of Roberts’ testimony concerned the way we account for CO2 emissions. Under consumption based accounting, which proponents of the power plant prefer, only 6 percent of Invenergy’s emissions will count towards Rhode Island’s CO2 output. Under production (or generation) based CO2 accounting, Rhode Island would be responsible for all the emissions. (See here for more on this topic.)

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“All we can control is what we build in this state,” said Roberts. “If we build a seven billion pound per year fossil fuel based [power] plant, and yet we only account for only six percent [of emissions] which would be the effect of adopting consumption based accounting against our target, then who is going to account for the other 94 percent? How do we [Rhode Island] make sure they are actually accounting for it?”

Normally I would have a story like this ready to go right after the hearing ended, but momentous news was announced just after Roberts’ cross examination.

Here’s all the video:

Other witnesses were called after Roberts’ cross examination, including Burrillville’s expert witness Glenn Walker. Here they are:

Glenn Walker

Margaret Curran

Janet Coit

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Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade. Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading.