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Did CRMC re-appointees lie to Senate Committee during their hearing?

Coia states that the woman insulted family members of the council. Cervenka says that the woman began to yell. Coia says that Cervenka called for a break to let things cool down. However, as the video below shows, Cervenka summoned State and Capitol Police officers to stop the woman from speaking when she referred to CRMC members as cowards. Cervenka left her seat and walked away, summoned the police to remove the woman, and cut the woman’s mic.

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On February 3 the Senate Committee on the Environment and Agriculture confirmed three of Governor Gina Raimondo‘s reappointments to the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC). Defending themselves against actions taken in 2017 against a woman of color testifying against National Grid‘s proposed liquefaction facility, Raymond Coia, Vice-Chair of the CRMC and Jennifer Cervenka, Chair of the CRMC, presented a version of the events that does not match reality.

Coia states that the woman insulted family members of the council. Cervenka says that the woman began to yell. Coia says that Cervenka called for a break to let things cool down. However, as the video below shows, Cervenka summoned State and Capitol Police officers to stop the woman from speaking when she referred to CRMC members as cowards. Cervenka left her seat and walked away, summoned the police to remove the woman, and cut the woman’s mic.

UpriseRI and ecoRI were the only press in the room.

Coia and Cervenka go on to say that the public’s concerns about health were outside the scope of the CRMC’s narrow powers, and that the CRMC had no choice but to rubber stamp the application. In fact, the public expressed a number of concerns, including concerns about the coastal impacts the project would have.

In 2018, the Rhode Island Attorney General‘s office determined, long after the issue was decided in National Grid’s favor, that the CRMC had improperly withheld documents concerning the case from attorney Seth Handy.


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According to Attorney Handy, who brought the complaint, many of the issues that CRMC Director Grover 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.

On top of all this there is the simple fact that there is no law compelling the CRMC to vote yes on a project that is clearly against the best interests of the public. A no vote from the CRMC might be quickly overturned by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), but a message would have been sent: Rhode Island stands by our communities of color in the fight against environmental racism. Instead, the CRMC, under the guidance of Governor Gina Raimondo and in complicity with the corporate interests of National Grid, voted to ignore and insult the community.

Despite their apparent lies, the Senate Committee voted unanimously to approve the reappointment of Raymond Coia to the CRMC. They voted unanimously to reappoint Donald Gomez to the CRMC. And they voted 7-1, with only newly elected Senator Meghan Kallman voting in opposition, to reappoint Jennifer Cervenka to the CRMC.

The Senate Committee vote is yet another event in the continuing saga of environmental racism in the Port of Providence. Our leaders, such as Governor Raimondo and Dr Nicole Alexander-Scott, who leads the Rhode Island Department of Health, may talk a good game when it comes to how our zip code should not determine our health outcomes, but when push comes to shove, they will always side with corporate power over community interests.

Here’s all the video from the Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture:

See:


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.

atomicsteve@gmail.com