Whitehouse and Raimondo want you to trust the process, unless they say otherwise…

Sheldon Whitehouse

On President Donald Trump‘s offshore drilling proposal, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo was unambiguous at a Monday morning press conference:

“Here in Rhode Island, we know that the future is offshore wind power, not offshore oil drilling,” said Raimondo. “This proposal threatens our coasts, our ecosystems and multiple sectors of our economy. Since I’ve been Governor, we’ve set ambitious goals to make our energy and our economy more green. We’re home to the nation’s first and only offshore wind farm, and we’re on track to hit our goal of 20,000 green jobs by 2020. We can’t let the Trump administration put that significant progress at risk. I urge Rhode Islanders to voice their concerns about this proposal at the upcoming BOEM [Bureau of Ocean Energy Management] meeting.”

Raimondo was similarly unambiguous about Invenergy‘s proposed $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant two years ago:

“The construction of this clean energy generation facility will create hundreds of jobs while delivering more affordable and reliable energy to our businesses and homes,” said Raimondo. “We are tackling our regional energy challenges, committing to cleaner energy systems in the long-term, and putting Rhode Islanders back to work.”

Since then, Raimondo has tempered her enthusiasm for the power plant, as the most recent public comment I have access to attests, where she says if the plant’s power isn’t needed, per the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) and if the harm the plant will cause cannot be mitigated, the plant will not be built.

In other words, Raimondo wants us to trust the process.

United States Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (Democrat, Rhode Island) has a reputation as a stalwart defender on the environment, and his words on Trump’s offshore drilling proposal are strong:

“President Trump’s plan to allow drilling off the shores of New England threatens the jobs of hardworking fishermen who carve out a living on Narragansett Bay and those of everyone who works near the coast,” said Whitehouse. “We remember all too well the economic and environmental destruction caused by the North Cape oil spill, and the World Prodigy accident before that. Rhode Island’s congressional delegation and state leaders will stand together to stop President Trump from expanding profits for big oil and gas corporations at the risk of the decades of progress we’ve made cleaning up the Bay, investing in our ports, and leading on offshore wind energy.”

Whitehouse and United States Representative David Cicilline (Democrat, Rhode Island) co-sponsored the bipartisan New England Coastal Protection Act to bar drilling off the coast of New England.

Yet when it comes to the Invenergy power plant, Whitehouse is simultaneously apologetic and impotent.

“I apologize that I’m not going to agree with you about the Invenergy plant,” said Whitehouse to environmentalists and concerned residents at his campaign kickoff in Woonsocket, the most recent statement I have of his about the proposed Invenergy power plant.

Whitehouse also wants us to trust the process:

“There is a process,” said Whitehouse, “taking place for [the power plant] through the state Energy Facility Siting Board. They take sworn testimony, as I think you know. There are a whole bunch of local environmental groups that are intervened into that proceeding. The Conservation Law Foundation has come down from Boston to intervene in that proceeding. They have witnesses.”

Here’s the thing, though: United States Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is also engaged in a process. Everything Governor Raimondo and Senator Whitehouse have been saying to the public about Invenergy’s power plant could conceivably be said by Secretary Zinke about offshore drilling.

Here’s Zinke sounding exactly as reasonable as both Whitehouse and Raimondo when it comes to balancing the United States demand for energy against the apocalyptic future of climate change:

“Responsibly developing our energy resources on the Outer Continental Shelf in a safe and well-regulated way is important to our economy and energy security, and it provides billions of dollars to fund the conservation of our coastlines, public lands and parks,” said Secretary Zinke. “Today’s announcement lays out the options that are on the table and starts a lengthy and robust public comment period. Just like with mining, not all areas are appropriate for offshore drilling, and we will take that into consideration in the coming weeks. The important thing is we strike the right balance to protect our coasts and people while still powering America and achieving American Energy Dominance.”

Both Raimondo and Whitehouse tell us to trust the process. Guess what? Zinke has a process too! Complete with public meetings, environmental impact statements and a decision making body! (Also: Lots of cool sounding acronyms!)

“In conjunction with the announcement of the DPP, the Department is also publishing a Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare a Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act.

“Public meetings will be held around the country starting on January 16, 2018, to receive comments on the DPP and to inform the Draft Programmatic EIS. Specific dates, times, and venues will be posted on BOEM’s website at https://www.boem.gov/National-Program/.

“Using the information received from these public meetings, BOEM will prepare a Proposed Program (PP), which will be published for public comment, to be followed by a Proposed Final Program (PFP). In addition, the Department will prepare a Draft Programmatic EIS to be published concurrently with the PP, and a Final EIS with the PFP.

“The DPP and the NOI will be available for public comment for 60 days following the publication of the documents in the Federal Register.”

What’s not to trust in that process?

“You have to allow administrative procedures to take their course so everybody has a chance to say their piece,” said Whitehouse, “But for a senator or a congressman [or a governor?] to try to butt into an ongoing administrative proceeding is something that can create an ethics problem and is usually seen as an improper interference.”

Are Whitehouse and Raimondo improperly interfering with Zinke’s completely above board administrative procedures?

Janet Coit, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, is on the board of the EFSB and as such is prevented from commenting publicly about Invenergy’s proposed power plant until after a final determination is made. She surely understands the importance of allowing the “process” surrounding offshore drilling to run it’s course…

“Simply put, the Trump administration’s plan to lift the ban on offshore oil drilling is bad for Rhode Island. We cannot afford to take this huge step backwards,” said Coit at Monday morning’s press conference. “From our commercial and recreational fishermen who depend on marine habitats, to our coastal communities and tourists who enjoy our clean waters and beautiful beaches, our Ocean State has nothing to gain and everything to lose when it comes to the risks associated with offshore drilling.”

Okay, maybe not.


Just in case you don’t trust the process, you might want to be at this event on February 28:

The People’s Hearing: Against Oil Drilling in New England

Because no one is going to stand up for us, but us.


UpriseRI is entirely supported by donations and advertising. Every little bit helps:

Become a Patron!


Series Navigation<< Dates for the final hearings on Invenergy power plant setPatricia Morgan in Burrillville >>
mm
About Steve Ahlquist 579 Articles
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. atomicsteve@gmail.com

2 Comments

  1. Steve and readers, there is indeed one thing in Raimondo’s latest statement on the Invenergy power plant that is new and very, very ominous.

    “… if the plant’s power isn’t needed, per the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) and if the harm the plant will cause cannot be mitigated, the plant will not be built.”

    The ominous new word is “mitigated.”

    Mitigation means Invenergy donating serious money to DEM or private conservation groups such as The Nature Conservancy, etc. to buy other property—far or near to the power plant site—as compensation for the non-wetlands impact the plant will have on flora and fauna of the site, the neighboring George Washington Wildlife Management Area, the state forests contiguous with that, and the extensive lands held by the Burrillville and Glocester land trusts.

    But, no competent ecologist or wildlife biologist familiar with the extraordinary biodiversity of the northwest corner forest would agree that the destruction of the site alone, where Invenergy’s consultant, in an extensive field study, found 47 species of fauna and flora on the site that are designated “Species of Greatest Conservation Need” by the TNC/DEM 2015 Wildlife Action Plan, the state’s blueprint for conserving biodiversity.

    You don’t just randomly find a landscape as rich as that. And you don’t remove such a rich portion of a landscape, such as the power plant site, without damaging the ecology of the entire system.

    Yet, this is exactly what Raimondo is dog-whistling in her statement.

    In other words, what Raimondo, I fear, is conspiring to do—undoubtedly after a secret meeting with Invenergy or some go-between—is a completely un-scientific, yet easy to spin bribery scheme. Invenergy will pony up some serious money to buy “mitigating” property, and Raimondo and her lackeys on the Energy Facilities Siting Board, including DEM Director, Janet Coit, will spin the fiction that the destruction of the power plant site’s extraordinary biology, and the damaging impact on the surrounding forest ecology, is somehow compensated.

    Yes, if the Ivenergy site weren’t so rich—again, 47 Species of Greatest Conservation need—and if it weren’t on the border of a wildlife management area that the public has invested millions in precisely to protect that ecosystem, a mitigation scheme would make sense.

    But not here.

    Mark my word. The “fix” is now in. Raimondo has a plan to have her cake and eat it too. To beat Fung or Morgan, she desperately needs the support of the trades unions, while co-oping the “Green” vote with this mitigation bribery.

    It is very clever and it could work.

    It is about time that the media start paying big attention to what has been the poor step-sister in this whole saga: the location of the power plant and its terrestrial—not atmospheric—impact on the environment.

  2. For all Whitehouse talks about climate, he is no where near ready to propose actions that are powerful enough to change the climate trajectory to less than 450 ppm CO2 by 2040, So while he sounds good, he is way behind the curve on what is actually needed. Raimondo is not even to the start line and she can not see the economic transformation to a sustainable steady state planet from her hedge fund.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.