Calculating Plant's Emissions; Public Meetings Set

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

A number of issues are advancing that relate to the proposed Clear River Energy Center in Burrillville, R.I., since the contentious public hearing on March 31.

Greenhouse gases
The state Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council (EC4) is leaning toward a consumption-based model for tracking Rhode Island greenhouse-gas emissions. Data from this model would be used to measure carbon dioxide and methane emissions for state greenhouse-gas-reduction targets.

Using a consumption-based model, instead of a generation-based model, means emissions from a new power plant such as the Clear River Energy Center wouldn't be fully counted in Rhode Island’s overall volume of emissions. Instead, the formula would use aggregate emission data from all power plants in the region and apply them to commercial and residential use in Rhode Island.

Brown University professor J. Timmons Roberts, a member of the EC4 Science & Technical Advisory Committee, said the consumption-based model is adequate as long as Massachusetts and Connecticut follow the same model to track their climate emissions. Roberts also said that it's essential to track methane emissions leaked during the transmission of natural gas to Rhode Island. He also is concerned about effectively calculating the potency of methane as a greenhouse gas.

The EC4 Greenhouse Gas Technical Committee is accepting public input on the emission-tracking model. Slides from the most recent presentation are expected to be posted online. Public comments can be submitted until April 20 to Pam Sherrill at sherrill6@cox.net. The EC4 Greenhouse Gas Technical Committee is scheduled to meet next May 9. A second, two-week public comment period on the plan will begin after May 9.

The state reduction targets seek a 45 percent decrease in greenhouse gases by 2035 and an 80 percent reduction by 2050.

More public input
Opponents of the proposed Invenergy power plant expect a large crowd at the April 13 Burrillville Town Council meeting to seek answers on zoning issues and the process the board might follow to approve or deny the project.

A second public hearing sponsored by the Energy Facilities Siting Board was recently announced for May 10 at Burrillville Middle School. Speakers who were left out after the March 31 hearing ended at 10 p.m. will be given first preference to testify. The Energy Facilities Siting Board has a partial list of speakers signed up to speak before time ran out. Other speakers who missed out can be added to the list by contacting Todd Bianco at 401-780-2106 or vial e-mail at todd.bianco@puc.ri.gov. A third public hearing is scheduled for May 23.

Uxbridge says no
Opponents of the proposed Burrillville power plant say there is plenty of fossil-fuel-based electricity being generated to meet demand, especially as energy-efficiency and renewable-energy programs grow.

They also point to new fossil-fuel power projects being proposed in the region as evidence that a new power plant is redundant. Last December, the TransCanada Corp. of Calgary presented to the state energy siting board a plan to expand the existing Ocean State Power station in Burrillville with a 230-megawatt gas-fired electric turbine. No application has been submitted, however, as TransCanada has put Ocean State up for sale in order to fund an acquisition of a pipeline company. Nevertheless, TransCanada intends to keep the expansion viable for a new owner and will bid into the annual energy auction next February with electricity from that expansion.

A proposed power plant across the state line from Burrillville appears to be in trouble. On April 2, voters in Uxbridge, Mass., rejected a zoning change that would have allowed construction of a natural-gas-fired power plant. The size and scope of the project is nearly identical to the Clear River Energy Center. The zoning change would have replaced the current 350-megawatt limit with a 1-gigawatt power limit. The Uxbridge Energy Center was proposed by Boston-based Energy Management Inc.

Access denied
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and the Department of Administration continue to deny media access to their experts on air quality and groundwater use as they relate, even conceptually, to a new power plant. The reason: to protect the integrity of the legal process, according to media representative for the two agencies.

Burrillville town planner Thomas Kravitz also has been instructed to refer all questions relating to the proposed power plant to the town manager’s office. Town manager Michael Wood told ecoRI News that he doesn't have a gag order placed on town officials.

“We just want to make sure we get the full story before we talk to anyone,” Wood said. 

Speaker supports Invenergy
Gov. Gina Raimondo is sounding less sure about a new Burrillville power plant after two members of the General Assembly representing Burrillville recently announced their opposition to the project. Through a spokeman, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, however, told ecoRI News that he still fully supports the project.