The Uprising, December 15, 2017

Welcome to The Uprising for December 15, 2017: It’s been a wild week.

If you’re reading this, the loss of Net Neutrality hasn’t killed UpriseRI yet.

I’m starting with this tweet from superhero Bree Newsome:

Then I’m directing everyone to this piece in Teen Vogue: How to Support Black Women After the Alabama Senate Election.

On to local news:

1a. “It may not know it yet. It may still be walking around. But it’s a zombie,” said Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) Senior Attorney Jerry Elmer about Invenergy’s proposed $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant after Tuesday’s EFSB Hearing and Open Meeting.

The Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) ordered a Show-Cause Hearing after Invenergy’s Director of Development John Niland revealed in a letter that his company is suing National Grid and ISO New England over the costs of connecting the power plant to New England’s electrical grid.

At the Show-Cause Hearing Invenergy has to demonstrate why the EFSB should not shut down the docket until the results of the pending lawsuits are known.

EFSB Chair Margaret Curran said, “Invenergy has taken the position that the generator [of electricity] should not be responsible for the costs [but that] the cost should be socialized. And in this case I believe that that means the cost would be socialized throughout the area ISO New England controls.”

In other words: Invenergy wants the public to pay for part of the costs associated with building the power plant.

1b. Jerry Elmer contends that:

  • If Invenergy wins the lawsuits, Invenergy would get to shift hundreds of millions of dollars in costs onto New England electricity ratepayers. This would be illegal, because it would violate the ISO Tariff that must be followed by every electricity generator in New England. And the EFSB would be very unlikely to grant a permit under those circumstances.
  • If Invenergy loses, Invenergy would be force to spend these hundreds of millions of dollars itself; this is something that Invenergy is probably unable to do, and something which Invenergy has already told the ISO it won’t do before getting its EFSB permit.

1c. The EFSB also openly wondered about the water supply deal Invenergy signed with the Narragansett Indian Tribe (NIT). The deal, which remains sealed and has not been released to the public, is for water to be delivered from a well in Charlestown. But a letter from NIT Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas, one of the signers of the deal, indicates that the water will be actually coming from Westerly.

1d. The Show-Cause Hearing was originally scheduled for December 18 but as expected, Invenergy asked for more time to prepare. On Thursday EFSB Chair Curran granted Invenergy’s request for an extension. The show-cause hearing has been tentatively scheduled for January 30, 2018.

2a. Also on Tuesday, the other big fossil fuel project in Rhode Island, National Grid’s planned liquefaction facility on Fields Point in the Port of Providence, was unanimously approved by the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC). The liquefaction plant will be built ten feet from Narragansett Bay.

The NoLNGinPVD Coalition, under the leadership of Monica Huertas, pulled out all the stops in opposing this plan, which will increase pollution and asthma rates in the South Providence communities surrounding Fields Point. The previous two meetings of the CRMC resulted in seven hours of testimony opposing the new facility with only four or five people testifying in support. One of those who testified in favor was the president and CEO of the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce, John Gregory.

Since CRMC Chair Jennifer Cervenka left a position working for the Chambers immediately prior to and possibly overlapping with her taking on the position of chair of the CRMC, NoLNGinPVD sent a letter to Governor Gina Raimondo and the Rhode Island Ethics Commission detailing Cervenka’s possible conflicts of interest.

Cervenka declared herself fit to vote at the meeting, shortly before approving the liquefaction facility.

“I have reviewed and considered… [the] letter to Governor Raimondo and… the letter to the Rhode Island Ethics Commission,” said Cervenka ahead of the vote. “There are a number of false statements in those letters and with respect to the statements that are not false, they don’t rise to the level of a conflict of interest. I am prepared to move forward with a vote [tonight] and I can render a fair and impartial decision. So, I wanted to respond to that on the record. And with respect to the Rhode Island Ethics Commission request, I intend to defend myself and clear my name.”

2b. Governor Gina Raimondo declined to answer any of my numerous inquiries about Cervenka, the CRMC or the liquefaction project, and also refused to meet with the NoLNGinPVD Coalition ahead of the CRMC vote, but she did answer WJAR/Channel 10 reporter Dan Jaenig after the fact when he asked.

“I do not [think there was a conflict of interest]” said Raimondo. “She went through all the proper channels. She, I think, handled it professionally. So I don’t. I do think, look, this is a charged issue. People are worried. People are concerned. The right place to take that up is through the Trump administration’s process and be loud and be concerned but direct it in a place that’s going to be useful.”

It’s a sad day when the Governor admits her uselessness.

“I wish I could play more of a role but it’s just not the way it is,” added the Governor, forgetting that she could have testified before the CRMC, issued a public statement in opposition to National Grid’s proposal, submitted testimony in opposition to the plan with FERC (as Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza has done), nominated actual environmentalists to the CRMC or even met with concerned residents.

But the governor only wishes she could have done more.

3. Kevin Olasanoye, the executive director of the Rhode Island Democratic Party (RIDP) booted the Women’s Caucus nominating committee out of the Party offices in Warwick when they wouldn’t agree to let a party staffer sit in on interviews with prospective executive board members.

“While we were conducting our interviews, the executive director let us know that one of his staffers would need to sit in on succeeding interviews,” wrote Justine Caldwell, who is on the nominating committee. “He said the ‘integrity of our process’ had been called into question.

“There were two Senators in the room [Jeanine Calkin and Gayle Goldin]. There is absolutely no way that if there had been two male Senators in the room, the director would have come in and questioned the integrity of the interview process. It’s unimaginable.

“We disagreed. Our process had been in place for months. We had promised each of our candidates confidentiality in their discussions with us. Even other members of the Women’s Caucus were not permitted to sit in on the interviews.

“So, the fourteen of us — unanimously — told him, ‘no.’

“And he then kicked us out into the cold.”

I collected some reactions to what happen here.

Ian Donnis got Governor Gina Raimondo’s opinion on the situation here.

4. If this…



starts to…



slow… down…




It might be because Net Neutrality was voted down by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday.

In a world where the Internet is divided into slow mountain trails and pricey toll roads, you can bet little sites like UpriseRI will be on the outside, looking in.

5. Beginning on January 2, 2018, and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, “any person can visit one of Providence’s 12 fire stations, speak with public safety officials on duty and immediately get connected to treatment support for substance based addiction.” The program seems to be working in two cities in New Hampshire. Providence will become the biggest municipality in New England with such a plan in place.

6. Did the Providence Journal run an editorial based on a report by the Koch brothers funded libertarian think tank Institute for Justice?

Yes they did.

Is the “costly licensing” issue a creation of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right wing legislation mill actively working against worker’s rights and for corporate dominance?

Yes it is.

7. The Division of Public Utilities and Carriers (DPUC) took public testimony as part of an investigation into “National Grid’s preparation, performance and management of the October 29‐30, 2017 storm.” Due to a problem with the video equipment, only the last 18 minutes of public comment video was recorded and preserved by the DPUC. That’s too bad, since I was at the CRMC hearing scheduled for the same time.

8. The Refugee Dream Center was awarded a children’s library full of books by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). “America is not what we see in the news and in the political discussions,” said Refugee Dream Center founder and executive director Omar Bah. “This is what America is: A welcoming country.”

9. The Woman Project interviewed Julia Hall, University of Rhode Island (URI) student and intern with The Woman Project.

Asked about passing out flyers in support of reproductive rights on the URI campus, Hall said, “The response was awesome! …One woman who was particularly interested in The Woman Project had told me that she had voted for Trump. Two young men had also mentioned they were part of the URI Republicans club on campus, but supported what we were doing… I think that this taught me that support for this cause can come from any party and is not limited to voting with Democrat Party affiliation.”

10. On Saturday morning, December 16, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence Office of Life and Family Ministry and Rhode Island Right to Life are teaming up to sing Christmas Carols outside of Planned Parenthood on 175 Broad St, Providence.

Their theme is, “Empty Manger,” an attempt to shame and harm women in need of vital reproductive health care services.

This counter protest will stand in silent joy and good cheer as we stand for women and reproductive rights and against those forces that would see the rights of women degraded.

Full disclosure: I planned this counter protest. Please note that this counter protest is not endorsed by or associated with Planned Parenthood.

11. Sunday December 17 is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers and Coyote Rhode Island is marking the event from noon to three at 10 Davol Square, Unit 100 in Providence.

12. The December 7 hearing of the Special Legislative Committee to Study the Energy Facilities Siting Act took testimony from Michael MacElroy, who has been representing the Town of Burrillville before the EFSB against Invenergy‘s proposed $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant, McElroy’s partner Leah Donaldson, who researched and wrote a comprehensive review and overhaul of the Energy Facilities Siting Act (EFSA) and Peter Lacouture,  who represents National Grid before the EFSB.

On Monday, December 18, 2017 in room 101 of the State House at 3pm the commission will take public testimony.

I hope to testify then. Look out.

13. Check out DACAmented, “a 36-minute documentary which follows the the day-to-day lives of nine DACA recipients navigating life in the United States as their future in the country they call home hangs in limbo, caught in the crossfires of a fractured government which too often uses immigration as a game of political wins and losses.”

It’s by local filmmaker and Brown University student St. Clair Detrick-Jules.

14. Resist Hate RI enters its second year full of purpose, but still finding its way.

15. Picture of the week:

And finally:

Sure, the Disney/Fox merger “threatens to put control of TV, movie, and news content into the hands of a single media giant,” as Representative David Cicilline points out. “If it’s approved, this merger could allow Disney to limit what consumers can watch and increase their cable bills.”

On the other hand, this will bring the X-Men and the Fantastic Four under Marvel Studios control, meaning we could see Wolverine fighting with the Avengers and Dr. Doom could threaten the world.

So as anti-corporatist me fights with fanboy me, I bid you a good week.

About Steve Ahlquist 717 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.

1 Comment

  1. I read the NPR piece, and he neglected(?) to mention that Ann Gooding WAS the anonymous democratic staffer who wished to sit in on the confidential interviews of perspective Women’s Caucus Executive Board members. The democratic PR woman called into question the integrity of the Women’s Caucus members there, and after they were kicked out, the dem party people actually CALLED all the interviewees and CANCELLED their interviews. Then they BLOCKED ACCESS to Women’s Caucus documents. Seriously. Then they lied about kicking the women out!

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