Activism Leads to Meeting with Gov. About Power Plant

Sisters Mary Pendergast, left, and Ginny Burke, center, joined activists on the three-day march to Burrillville, R.I., to protest the proposed Clear River Energy Center. (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News photos)

Sisters Mary Pendergast, left, and Ginny Burke, center, joined activists on the three-day march to Burrillville, R.I., to protest the proposed Clear River Energy Center. (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News photos)

Video and text by TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE­­ — The FANG Collective is nothing if not persistent. On a 90-degree, muggy Saturday morning outside the Statehouse the anti-fossil-fuel group kicked off a three-day march to Burrillville with 15 activists.

The event concludes July 18 with a public meeting with Gov. Gina Raimondo — a meeting the group made happen by staging sit-ins at Raimondo’s office and offices of other top state officials. The FANG Collective and its partners have protested almost every week since last August, when Raimondo announced plans for the natural-gas power plant in the rural northwest corner of the state. And at least two protesters seem to follow the governor to major press conferences and ribbon-cutting ceremonies holding yellow-and-red “No New Power Plant Burrillville” signs.

“This is the governor’s climate and environmental legacy moment, and the whole state is watching,” said Sherrie Anne Andre, a leader of The FANG Collective and an experienced advocate for social justice.

Anti-power-plant activists have followed Gov. Gina Raimondo to 30 public events, such as the announcement that General Electric is opening an office in Rhode Island.

Anti-power-plant activists have followed Gov. Gina Raimondo to 30 public events, such as the announcement that General Electric is opening an office in Rhode Island.

FANG’s public voice and co-founder, Nick Katkevich, is an experienced labor union organizer and a leader of social- and environmental-justice campaigns that range from the United Auto Workers Union to ACORN and the Occupy movement. He is one of a half-dozen activists arrested for non-violent protests against the nearly 1,000-megawatt power plant during the past year.

On July 16, Katkevich and Andre and the Pots & Pans Kitchen Collective made sure marchers stayed hydrated and cool for the 8-mile walk to the Greenville Public Library in Smithfield. Katkevich also met with a state trooper before the march to review public protest rules and safety measures.

Nick Katkevich of The FANG Collective goes over details of the march with a state trooper.

Nick Katkevich of The FANG Collective goes over details of the march with a state trooper.

Like many of the other non-violent actions, this protest was included other activist groups, such as Fossil Free RI. It also was the idea of another activist, Mark Baumer. The Providence resident, who walked across the country in 2010, got the idea for a march after running into Katkevich at the grocery store.

“I thought I wanted to do something like that (walk),” he said. “But it isn’t about us. It’s about raising awareness for Burrillville.”

The march drew another activist to the cause. Sister Ginny Burke of the Sisters of Mercy, a Catholic women's congregation that focuses on social- justice issues, joined the march to support her friend Sister Mary Pendergast, the ecology director for Sisters of Mercy and a regular at the power-plant protests and public hearings.

“So much of what we do is about social justice,” Burke said.

Katkevich said he is glad the governor agreed to the July 18 public meeting. But he and other opponents want the project to go away.

“Beyond just listening to the concerns of residents, we need the governor to use the visit to revoke her support of the toxic Invenergy project once and for all, ” Katkevich said.

The march continued July 17, beginning at the Greenville Library and ended at the Village Bean Café in Glocester. On July 18 the march will leave the Village Bean Café at noon and end at 4:30 p.m. at Burrillville High School.

The march will break at 2:30 p.m. at 24 North Main St. in the village of Pascoag for a ceremony at the site of a well polluted by the gasoline additive methyl tert-butyl ether, or MTBE. The developer of the power plant, Invenergy Thermal Development LLC, of Chicago, wants to use water from the closed well to cool the power plant.