Power Plant Developer Promises to Cut Oil Use, Reduce Emissions

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

The developer of the fossil-fuel power plant proposed for Burrillville, R.I., has made an overture to critics of the project but, so far, it hasn't changed any minds.

Chicago-based Invenergy Thermal Development LLC announced on Aug. 8 that it would cut diesel-power use from 30 days to 15 annually at the nearly 1,000-megawatt facility. The Clear River Energy Center intends to run primarily on natural gas, with oil as a backup fuel if demand spikes as it did during cold spells in 2013 and 2014.

This reduction in oil fuel would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30,000 tons annually, according to Invenergy.

“We know that the community had questions about the potential number of days we could run on oil, so we’ve adjusted our plan to limit those days and further reduce emissions,” said John Niland, Invenergy’s development director.

Since the project was announced in August 2015 critics have said that carbon emissions would make it difficult for the state to meet its climate-reduction targets as established by the Resilient Rhode Island Act of 2014, which aims to cut carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050.

Paul Roselli, president of the Burrillville Land Trust, said the announcement doesn't change his opposition to the project.

“A less than 10 percent reduction of CO2 emissions from the Invenergy project is laudable, but pales in comparison to the total amount of CO2 that will be released if this power plant is approved,” Roselli said.

He estimated that the power plant would still emit 3.6 million tons of carbon dioxide annually — more than all the cars and trucks emit each year in Rhode Island.

“In a time of global climate change crisis, we must eliminate CO2 and methane emissions out of the normal operating business equation. We can’t afford to do business like this anymore,” Roselli said.

Invenergy has said that if built the power plant would be New England's most efficient, and would lower regional carbon emissions and pollution.

Nick Katkevich of the climate activist group FANG: Fight Against Natural Gas said Invenergy's power plant will be the largest greenhouse-gas emitter in Rhode Island if built.

"Fracked gas is not cleaner then other fossil fuels and Invenergy's project power plant would negatively impact Burrillville residents, the whole state of Rhode Island and communities across the Northeast facing fracking and fracked-gas infrastructure," he said. "It's time to Invenergy to cancel the Clear River Energy Center project."

The project has received setbacks in recent weeks, as two Burrillville water boards denied Invenergy access to their water supply. The company said it is exploring other options for water to cool the power plant.

Advisory opinions from 12 state and local entities are due Sept. 9, followed by public hearings. The state Energy Facilities Siting Board is expected to rule on the project by the end of this year or early 2017.