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Editorial & Opinion

The Uprising December 8, 2017



Where to begin?

Donald Trump may have launched a new intifada when he recognized Jerusalem. If this rebellion in the “Holy” Land gets big enough, hundreds are sure to die. CVS is buying Aetna for $69 billion, which will have huge, unpredictable impacts on the nation’s healthcare. Our healthcare policy is being decided by the random, unthinking actions of a free market, so rest easy about that. And the PawSox legislation generated out of the State Senate hearings has removed language that would have supercharged eminent domain.

Let’s see what else was going on:

1a. Because Invenergy, the company that wants to build a $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant in the pristine forests of the north west Rhode Island, made a deal with the Narragansett Indian Tribe to secure water to cool its turbines, the town of Charlestown was granted intervenor status in the licensing process by the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB).  Charlestown and the Narragansett Indian Tribe share an aquifer. This means that the EFSB had to hold two more public hearing in the “affected communities” of Charlestown and Burrillville.

At the Charlestown hearing on Tuesday, public officials, elected representatives and interested residents filled an elementary school cafeteria for four hours of public testimony. As a prelude to public comment, Invenergy’s Director of Development, John Niland, ran through a power point presentation that had everyone on the edge of their seats, because they thought he was going to talk about the secretive water plan between Invenergy and the Tribe, since that was the whole reason for this new round of public hearings.

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Instead, Niland presented a variation on the same power plant talk he’s given for the last two years. As a result, the public had no information about the water plan they were supposed to be commenting on. Charlestown residents seemed stunned by Invenergy’s lack of openess. To Burrillville residents it was business as usual.

1b. Invenergy showed the exact same power point a night later at the Burrillville hearing. Niland presented the same slides to Burrillville, a group of people who have heard it all before, some the very night before. Again, there were no real details on the water plan everyone had gathered to discuss.

But Burrillville, unlike Charlestown, has suffered over two years of Invenergy’s games, and they were ready. Once Niland began speaking, dozens of bright red “Enough is Enough” signs were held aloft.

When it came time for Burrillville to supply testimony, they used the time to point out what a bad actor Invenergy has been over the years. Burrillville Town Councilor Ray Trinque noted that post cards Invenergy mailed out to residents announcing the meeting they were attending listed the wrong school as the meeting place.

And Invenergy has done that before.

2. Switching gears, Net Neutrality is suddenly at risk again. For those having a hard time understanding Net Neutrality and what it is people are upset about, Paola Prado, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Communication at Roger Williams University, provided a helpful metaphor:

“What [removing Net Neutrality] does is allow telecommunication conglomerates to filter and funnel Internet access for profit,” said Prado. “The FCC will have basically made the information super highway into a pricey toll-road for those who can afford it.”

Rhode Island Rights held a protest, in concert with hundreds of protests across the country, in front of the Verizon store on Waterman Street in Providence. Over two dozen people held signs and handed out flyer to passers by and motorists. Another protest was held in Warwick.

The FCC vote on Net Neutrality is scheduled for December 14. On the day after, this site might be slower to access, which may rise to the level of a Constitutional issue:

“The press today is no longer a synonym for print or broadcast,” said Paola Prado. “The 21st Century press distributes on line. Any Federal regulation or deregulation that limits access to the press does so in defiance of our First Amendment rights.”

3. In 2018 election news, Nika Lomazzo has announced her intention to challenge Representative John Lombardi in District 8, Providence. Lomazzo is a trans rights activist interested in representing all the residents of Ward 8, including the undocumented. She is fully in support of Providence being a Sanctuary City.

4. Back on energy for a moment, the NoLNGinPVD coalition is calling on Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) Chair Jennifer Cervenka to resign amidst allegations of an anti-environmental, pro-fossil fuel industry bias and racism.

So far a state senator, five state representatives and a Providence city councilor have signed onto a petition, demanding Cervenka’s resignation. The public hearing at 5pm on Tuesday December 12 in the cafeteria of the Administration Building across the State House should be interesting.

Governor Gina Raimondo, who installed Cervenka as chair just ahead of the CRMC hearings concerning National Grid‘s liquefaction facility in Fields Point in the Port of Providence, has been silent on the issue. You can add your name to the petition calling for Cervenka’s resignation here if you are so inclined.

5. Pawtucket City Councilors Megan Kallman and Sandra Cano reflect on the burden women carry as the #MeToo movement sweeps the country.

“As women and as leaders, we want to take this opportunity to recognize the tremendous burden that women are carrying in this moment—through the courageous telling of their stories, in the pain that comes with having to relive some of their worst moments, and in being reminded afresh of how common assault is. We hear you. We see you. We honor you.”

6. The Woman Project has a video on Facebook where men recite the Rhode Island Democratic Party‘s platform language that specifically addresses abortion and reproductive rights.

This week they have an interview up with David Caldwell, one of the men who participated in the video.

In the video, “we took those abstract principles stated in the state Democratic party platform, and put many different male faces on them, and attached our feelings to them,” said Caldwell. “Sexism, along with many other -isms, is involved in almost everything we perceive, so having men be the voices will affect how the voices are heard. I was thrilled to lend mine.”

7. Here’s the Cranston Mayoral portrait of Ed DiPrete, who served as mayor from 1979-1985. He later went on to serve as Governor before serving time for bribery, extortion and racketeering.

8. I took the DiPrete picture ahead of covering Thursday night’s Cranston City Council Ordinance Committee meeting. At the meeting city councilors took up a few issues, including a resolution encouraging the General Assembly to ban the sale and use of bump stocks. The resolution passed easily.

The same ordinance committee then tabled a resolution encouraging the General Assembly to pass legislation preventing people with concealed carry permits from bringing their guns into schools. Angry calls of “Cowards” and “Who do you serve” filled the room as the Ordinance Committee members grabbed their coats to leave the room.

(I’ll have a full report on this over the weekend.)

9. If you’re looking to understand the legal battle over the licensing of the Invenergy power plant in Burrillville, then this video of a presentation Conservation Law Foundation Senior Attorney Jerry Elmer gave last week is a great start.

“We took the case because it was the right thing to do,” said Elmer. “Because it’s wrong to build a new fossil fuel power plant that will make it impossible for the state to meet its carbon-emission reduction goals.”

10. UNAP filed a lawsuit in Superior Court to preserve health care services and jobs at Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket.

“The Department of Health has allowed Care New England to circumvent the Hospital Conversions Act and now we are asking the Court to restore integrity to the regulatory process,” said Chris Callaci, UNAP general counsel.

11. Due to expected snow this weekend in Providence, a citywide parking ban will begin at 2:00AM on Sunday, December 10, and remain in effect until 6:00AM that same day. All Providence Recreation Centers will be closed tomorrow, Saturday, December 9 due to winter conditions.

12. The Energy Facility Siting Board will conduct an Open Meeting on Tuesday, December 12 at 10:30 AM, in Hearing Room A of the Public Utilities Commission Offices, 89 Jefferson Boulevard, Warwick, Rhode Island.

  • Docket SB-2015-06 Invenergy Thermal Development LLC’s Application to
    Construct the Clear River Energy Center Power Plant in Burrillville, RI
  • The Board will discuss the Contingent Water Supply Plan dated September 28,
  • 2017 involving the removal and transport of water from the Narragansett Indian Tribe’s Settlement Lands in Charlestown, R.I.
  • The Board will discuss the contents of a letter dated December 1, 2017 letter from John Niland, Director of Business Development for Invenergy, filed with the Board on December 4, 2017.

Upon conclusion of the Board’s discussion of the Contingent Water Supply Plan and Invenergy’s December 1, 2017 letter, the Board may vote on procedural and/or scheduling matters

Fans of the EFSB are encouraged to attend.

13. The ACLU of Rhode Island has announced a settlement in a case involving public breastfeeding. Elizabeth Gooding sued Ocean Community YMCA for violating her right to breastfeed in public. Details of the settlement are confidential but ACLU volunteer attorney H. Jefferson Melish said the settlement was “fair to all parties and recognizes the importance of the Rhode Island Breastfeeding in Public Places statute.”

14. On Saturday, December 16, the Diocese of Providence Office of Life and Family Ministry and Rhode Island Right to Life are teaming up to sing Christmas Carols outside Planned Parenthood in Providence. The theme is, “Empty Manger.”

Expect a peaceful and respectful counter protest as well.

15. Picture of the week:

Burrillville reacts to the same old song and dance from Invenergy’s John Niland.

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Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.