The Fall River City Council had a robust discussion about the city’s agreement to sell water to cool the turbines of Invenergy’s proposed $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant aimed at the forests of Burrillville. Though the item was not on the agenda, raising concerns among some members that discussing the sale may be a violation of Massachusetts’ Open Meeting Act, City Council president Shawn Cadime said that the discussion is on the financial impacts of the sale, and well within the night’s discussion as presented on the agenda.
Terrance Sullivan, Fall River’s administrator of community utilities said that “the meeting was publicly posted, it was on TV, there was no backroom deal, there was no hidden agenda” in making the deal with Benn Water to supply water for the power plant. “The intent of our involvement in the agreement is to support the ratepayers of the city.”
See full video of the discussion below.
Sullivan said that the maximum amount of water that could be shipped from the facility was 88,000 gallons per day (GPD), or about 11 trucks per day. On average the city expects between zero to three trucks a day. The contract is for three years, with the potential to renew.
“I feel for anybody that’s in opposition,” said Sullivan, “but if they’re looking to stop a facility it should be stopped on the merits of the facility, not on our small sale of water.”
“This contract was signed on August 17th,” noted City Councilor Pam Laliberte-Lebeau. “So [now] it’s October twenty-something and this is just a comment: We’re always very vocal when we have revenue streams and good things to promote. yet not a word, not a press conference not anything about this until this all happened in the last couple of days? I think that’s the thing i find most concerning.”
When the defense was made that small agreements like the one in question are entered into all the time without issuing press releases, Council President Cadime interjected that “I think something as significant as this, whether its a press conference or not, I think the City Council should at least have some foresight as to what’s going on. I mean, we’re all aware o who we sell water to… so I’ve got to state that I think it’s a little disingenuous to say that we don’t necessarily share that.
“It’s pretty consistent with what we’ve been receiving as a city council. The information we’re receiving is extremely lacking.”
The Fall River City Council usually approves such agreements, but not agreements for only three years. “The agreements we bring to council exceed three years,” said Sullivan as per city ordinance. “To be honest with you, without the reaction from Rhode Island I think this would have went along as a relatively small contract.”
City Council Vice President and candidate for Mayor Linda Pereira pointed out the the water board agenda was not clear about the water sale, simply stating, “contingent water.”
Pereira categorized the water board members as being like, “deer in a headlight” who didn’t know what exactly they were voting on. “I’m so sick of that,” said Pereira. “People have a right to know.”
Pereira was particularly concerned about the neighborhood around the site where trucks would get the needed water. Additional trucks traffic and water leakage on the street spawned cals to her office when the news broke.
Pereira also questioned the length of the contract, being three years with an option of two three years extensions. “…it’s nine years, so we’re one year short of ten years to come to us? Come on. It’s wrong…
“This is the biggest problem in this city, the lack of communication and the lack of transparency. Had we not heard from the people of Rhode island we wouldn’t have known… Who goes an hour away [for water]?”
“I think this board is being disgraceful,” said City Councilor Steven Camara. “When we see a situation in which almost the entire State of Rhode Island is united in doing what it can to prevent this plant from happening, and when I think of the many people from Rhode Island who came to Fall River’s benefit when we were fighting Weavers Cove as being a site of an LNG plant, I feel like we’re an accomplice to a potential crime by being supportive of a company that is clearly doing something that is not in the best interest of our neighboring state of Rhode Island. They were there for us, and what we’ve given them in return is to be an accomplice to a corrupt and disruptive corporate entity.”
Camara called for a full hearing into the water contract.
“I am surprised that our Watuppa Water Board entered into this contract without knowing fully what the consequences are and what the consequences may be… A word to the Watuppa Water Board and I think this is a word to the administration [of Mayor Jasiel Correia] as well: Open up your eyes when you’re negotiating or when you’re making decisions or when you’re sending orders down to the city and then expecting us to adopt them a clandestine kind of operation.
“In this case I called Mr [John] Friar [Watuppa Water Board clerk] immediately when this issue was brought to my attention by [Fall River resident] Erica Scott… and [Friar] played like he didn’t have any idea what I was talking about.”
Watuppa Water Board clerk John Friar II responded that his expectation is that most of the water being sold will used for dust control at the project site.
The Fall River City Council Committee on Health and Environmental Affairs will hold a meeting to discuss the contract in full.
See previous coverage here: