Power plant opponents celebrate another victory as case moves into final months

Power plant opponents celebrate another victory as case moves into final months

No New Power Plant, a group that organizes resident opposition to the proposed Invenergy power plant, presented a $5,000 check to the Conservation Law Foundation last month for their work in opposing the plant before the Energy Facility Siting Board. Jerry Elmer, senior attorney for CLF, accepted the check on behalf of CLF. Hearings are scheduled to continue through Feb. 7, with a final decision on the plant expected next spring.

BURRILLVILLE – Opponents of the proposed Invenergy power plant were celebrating last week after the Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB) – the state agency responsible for issuing a final decision on the project – granted a motion to reject a two-year-old advisory opinion that opponents had argued was out of date.

The opinion, issued in September 2016 by then-Public Utilities Commission member Herbert DeSimone Jr., maintained the energy promised by the plant was needed in the area, as evidenced in part by a capacity supply obligation contract awarded to Invenergy by ISO New England, the regional power grid operator, in 2016. Earlier this year, ISO New England requested permission to cancel Invenergy’s contract, leading power plant opponents to argue the opinion, considered favorable to the company’s case, no longer applied.

“We think it’s a significant development,” said Michael Wood, town manager of Burrillville, which filed the motion. “I think the board made a commonsense decision here, and it’s basically what we’ve been trying to convey to the EFSB for a number of years now – that the project is not needed in Rhode Island.”

ISO New England’s request to cancel the contract is now being considered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, with a decision expected later this year. The contract, a key part of the company’s argument that the power plant would benefit the region, was canceled due to Invenergy’s inability to meet “critical path schedule milestones” for the Clear River Energy Center, which was originally scheduled to go online by June 2019 but has met with significant delays and public opposition.

In a statement issued in response to the EFSB’s decision, Invenergy Chief Legal Counsel Michael Blazer maintained the plant would provide necessary energy to the region.

“The review of this important new energy source for Rhode Island is continuing as planned,” he said. “The facts are clear: With Rhode Islanders continuing to face some of the nation’s highest electric rates and thousands of megawatts of capacity coming off the grid in the coming years, the need for the Clear River Energy Center is only growing.”

The EFSB also approved two motions last week filed by the Conservation Law Foundation to admit new documents as evidence in the proceedings. According to Jerry Elmer, senior attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation, the documents further demonstrate inaccuracies in Invenergy’s statements that power supplied by the Clear River Energy Center is needed in the region.

“What this shows is a lot of evidence coming into the case that shows that Invenergy is not needed and casts Invenergy in a negative light,” he said.

The EFSB has released an updated schedule of hearings continuing into 2019. Testimony by various state and local officials is now tentatively scheduled to wrap up on Feb. 7, with a final decision expected in mid-spring. According to Wood, the process has been taxing for Burrillville residents, many of whom have waited several years for a decision on the controversial project.

“I think this should’ve been decided a long time ago, but the way the Energy Facility Siting Act is set up, the process lends itself to this kind of situation,” he said. “I think it’s unfair to the residents and the people affected by the project to have to have two, three, four years on a decision like this. I’ve said that right from the beginning: people need to know where this stands and where the project stands.”