Gov. Raimondo Needs to Stop Supporting Rhode Island’s Expansion of Fossil Fuels

Editor’s note: The following is an open letter to Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo from Burrillville BASE, No LNG in PVD, The FANG Collective, the Mashapaug Narragansett Tribe, the Federation of Aboriginal Nations of America, the Rhode Island Sierra Club, Sisters of Mercy Ecology, Sunrise RI, Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island, Our Revolution Rhode Island, and Climate Action Rhode Island.

For three years we have been resisting two major fossil-fuel projects proposed for Rhode Island. Despite call-in days, marches, vigils, and sit-ins, you have remained silent, or actively supported these projects. We urge you to listen to the people of Rhode Island, reverse course, and join us in opposing these projects before it’s too late.

Invenergy’s power plant proposed for Burrillville (occupied Nipmuc territory) would burn diesel fuel and fracked gas, spewing harmful toxins across the region while destroying a critical wetland forest. If the plant were to be built, daily truck loads of water and routine shipments of diesel fuel and ammonia would have to be shipped across rural roads to keep the plant running. The town of Burrillville has been resisting fracked-gas infrastructure for 30 years and is already home to two major interstate pipelines, two fracked-gas compressor stations, and a fracked-gas power plant.

National Grid’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility proposed for Providence (occupied Mashapaug Nahaganset territory) would be built in a community of color that is already inundated with toxic infrastructure, and that already has some of the highest rates of asthma in Rhode Island. Recently in this community there has been a major fracked-gas pipeline rupture, an ethanol train derailment, and a gasoline tanker crash that caused a major spill. The LNG facility would put this community at greater risk of a dangerous accident and would lead to more negative health impacts for residents.

To date the only statement your administration has issued on the LNG facility, has been a statement supporting the project. Furthermore, you stacked the Coastal Resource Management Council with pro-development appointees, right before they voted to approve a key permit for the facility. If this permit would have been denied, the project would have been canceled, and your constituents would be protected.

You have stated that the LNG project is now a federal issue and that it is out of your hands because the lead permitting agency for the project is the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The truth of the matter is that it’s common place for governors to intervene in projects going through the FERC process. Plus, you have routinely spoken out about issues of national significance.

Meanwhile, when the power plant was first proposed for Burrillville, you stood with the CEO of Invenergy and promised that the plant would swiftly be built. After agreeing to visit Burrillville and hearing directly from residents at a town hall event in 2016, you said, “If there are issues, the plant shouldn’t go forward.”

From localized impacts to global climate change, and the fact that the project’s forward-capacity agreement with ISO New England was recently canceled, there are numerous irrevocable issues with this project. Thirty-two cities and towns in Rhode Island have recognized these issues and have passed resolutions opposing the power plant.

You have told us to “trust the process” with the power plant. But the process is not a neutral one. Your administration, through various advisory opinions submitted to the Energy Facility Siting Board, has issued several reports that support the project and ignore serious concerns, with the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources even claiming that the construction of the power plant, which would produce greenhouse-gas emissions equivalent to putting 763,562 cars a year on the road, would be a good thing in the fight against climate change.

For both National Grid’s proposed LNG facility and Invenergy’s proposed power plant, free and prior consent wasn’t reached with the indigenous nations whose land these projects would be built on. This includes your administration ignoring the Mashapaug Nahaganset Tribe’s December 2017 cease-and-desist order demanding the halt of the LNG permitting process.

In addition to these local impacts, both of these projects would continue our region’s dependence on fossil fuels and would contribute to global climate change. A report from the United Nations released on Oct. 8 stated that our civilization only has 12 years to confront the climate crisis before the crisis spirals out of control, with devastating impacts. To remain silent, or supportive of these fossil-fuel projects proposed for Rhode Island, would mean that you are complicit in the violence and destruction of the climate crisis.