Motion Filed to Dismiss Proposed Power Plant

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

BURRILLVILLE, R.I. — The day after state agencies and departments endorsed the proposed Clear River Energy Center, the town filed a request to dismiss the $700 million project.

Town attorneys Michael McElroy and Oleg Nikolyszyn are asking the state Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) to dismiss the application for the proposed fossil-fuel power plant, because of the failure of the developer, Chicago-based Invenergy Thermal Development LLC, to find a source of water for cooling the natural-gas/diesel facility.

“Invenergy’s failure to timely provide the EFSB, the town and its entities with requested information regarding its proposed water supply renders its application incomplete," according to the motion. "Under the EFSB rules and the act, Invenergy’s application must include information regarding all required support facilities, including water resources. Invenergy’s application currently contains no information at all about a proposed water source. The application therefor cannot be evaluated in a meaningful way without this information."

Water use has been a major concern for the nearly 1,000-megawatt project since Invenergy proposed tapping into a polluted well that was contaminated by the fuel additive methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE). The public well was closed by court order in 2001, after residents were sickened when the chemical leaked from a nearby gas station. Residents were outraged when they learned earlier this year that the water supply might re-open.

In August, the Pascoag Utility District put those fears at ease, when the water board denied access to well 3A. Also last month, the Harrisville Fire District denied access to public water supplies over concern that the use of nearly a million gallons per day by the proposed facility would threaten water capacity and restrict development.

The town's Planning Board and Zoning Board of Review noted the lack of information about a water source in their recent reports, called advisory opinions, to the EFSB. Advisory opinions from the state Department of Health and Department of Environmental Management noted the absence of a water source as a point of concern and both asked they be given opportunity to access the impacts of groundwater use if a water source is found.

On Sept. 9, Invenergy filed a request for a 30-day extension to secure a water source for the proposed power plant.

McElroy and Nikolyszyn say time has run out, and in their motion to dismiss called Invenergy's promise to announce a water source in the coming weeks as “uselessly vague.”

“Without the water information, the town and its entities have been denied a meaningful opportunity to fully evaluate and be heard on Invenergy’s application and its impacts on the town residents and its environment, especially water quality and water quality issues, and any projected impacts the aquifer that serves the town’s well,” according to the dismissal request.

Jerry Elmer, senior attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation, said the environmental advocacy group will also file a request to dismiss the project.

“The Energy Facility Siting Board process cannot go forward without the required advisory opinions from the town; and the town cannot prepare the required advisory opinions because Invenergy has failed to provide legally required information," Elmer said. "Invenergy's application to build a new fossil-fuel power plant in Burrillville is incomplete, and the EFSB must dismiss the application."

CLF was denied a similar motion to dismiss Invenery’s application in January. With a deadline missed, Elmer said, “it is past time for the EFSB to dismiss this case.”

The next scheduled meeting with the EFSB is Oct. 13. Public hearings will be held Sept. 21 at Toll Gate High School in Warwick at 6 p.m. and Oct. 3 at Burrillville High School at 6 p.m.