[From a press release]
On Tuesday Burrillville BASE, a group that has led protest movements against fossil fuel projects in Burrillville since 2014, called for the closure of the Ocean State Power Plant. The facility, which burns up to 100 million cubic feet of fracked-gas a day and is currently owned by LS Power, went online in Burrillville in 1990 despite widespread local opposition. The campaign to close the power plant was announced via a letter that was sent to the Burrillville Town Council.
Burrillville BASE called for the phasing out of the power plant using what they described as a “just transition framework,” in which funds would be sought from LS Power, the state, and other sources to support workers displaced by the plant’s closure and to offset the revenue that the town receives from the plant. Burrillville BASE is calling for the plant to be shut down by 2023 at the latest.
“Burrillville has for too long been Rhode Island’s epicenter of toxic fossil fuel infrastructure,” said Kathy Martley of Burrillville BASE. “We are calling for an honest and collaborative process where the workers at Ocean State Power, community members, local tribes and the town council work together to close the plant in a way that is healing and minimizes economic disruptions to our community.”
On Monday Burrillville BASE also published documents which they say raise concerns about the Town government’s recent dealings with LS Power. In a series of emails obtained through an Access to Public Records Act request, Burrillville officials are seen colluding with LS Power to create a plan to hide documents about the power plant from public records requests. The records were first obtained by RI News Report, an anonymous policy research collective.
On February 11th a lawyer with LS Power emailed Michael McElroy, a lawyer for the Town of Burrillville, asking if he could send “a copy of a presentation” to Town Manager Michael Wood in a way that would ensure the presentation could be hidden from public records requests. Later that day McElroy responded with proposals for how the presentation could be hidden from public view, including this suggestion:
“Possible options to try to protect the presentation could include sending the presentation only to me so that it never ends up in the Town’s files. If someone finds out about it and asks for it, we could try to argue that as special outside counsel I am not a representative of the town.”
Two days later on February 13th, the Town Manager Michael Wood asked LS Power for a $50,000 donation to upgrade a local town facility. On February 20th the lawyer for LS Power seemed to agree on the plan to hide the documents that McElroy had laid out. Then on March 3rd LS Power emailed the town letting them know that they had agreed to the $50,000 donation.
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The documents in question relate to negotiations around a new tax treaty between the Town and LS Power. The current tax treaty between the two parties, which sets a standard property tax rate for the power plant, is set to expire this month.
“The tax treaty negotiations must be halted immediately as residents deserve to know what is in these hidden documents. Any new tax treaty must include a plan to shut down the plant by 2023 with LS Power paying to offset the impacts of the plant’s closure.,” Martley continued. “Ocean State Power is thirty years old. We need to phase out all fossil fuel plants in Rhode Island, let’s start with this one.”
From 2014 to 2015 Burrillville BASE and The FANG Collective organized a campaign to stop the expansion of Enbridge‘s fracked-gas pipeline which cuts through the town. The groups organized rallies, political pressure, and even civil disobedience. The groups then played a pivotal role in sparking the movement that stopped a $1 billion power plant proposed for Burrillville by Invenergy. In January Governor Gina Raimondo signed an executive order calling for all of Rhode Island’s energy to be produced by clean renewable sources by 2030.
In addition to Burrillville BASE, the letter sent to the Burrillville Town Council announcing the campaign to close Ocean Power Plant was signed by the Mashapaug Nahaganset Tribe and the FANG Collective.