Invenergy Making Deal With Woonsocket for Water

Video and text by TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — With time running short, the developer of the proposed fossil-fuel power plant in Burrillville finally announced its plan to deliver water to the controversial project.

In a report released Dec. 12, Invenergy Thermal Development LLC said it wants to ship water to the natural-gas/diesel facility via a 14-mile pipeline from the city’s water supply. The public will have a chance to learn about and comment on the project at a hearing scheduled for Jan. 6. The City Council is expected to vote on the deal at a meeting during the week of Jan. 9.

Chicago-based Invenergy has until Jan. 11 to reach an agreement with the city. On Oct. 13, the state Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB) gave the company a 90-day extension to name its water supplier.

Woonsocket had been rumored as the source after Burrillville rejected the use of municipal water this past summer. Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt gave conflicting reports about discussions with Invenergy. The City Council, however, eventually admitted that the company was talking with the city. Negotiations, however, were delayed until after the Nov. 8 election.

In early December, Invenergy began nightly closed-door meetings with the City Council and Department of Public Works. Protestors showed up prior to the meetings seeking greater transparency on the water plan.

Initial proposals for the fossil-fuel power plant called for up to 900,000 gallons of water daily to cool the nearly 1,000-megawatt facility. If built, it would be the largest power plant in Rhode Island and the largest emitter of carbon dioxide.

The project would include a new pumping station for Woonsocket. After reaching the power plant in Burrillville, the water would be discharged into the municipal sewer system.

The latest proposal includes a new water-cleaning and recycling system that reduces the discharge in Burrillville and the overall daily use of municipal water. The three-member EFSB is likely to rule on the project in early 2017.

The project also requires permits for air pollution and wetland changes from the state Department of Environmental Management.

Invenergy also announced the extension of its option to buy the land sited for the power plant from Spectra Energy until Dec. 19, 2017. Details for an access road through the forested area were also submitted to the town of Burrillville. Changes were made to the original plan, such as replacing two 1-million-gallon oil tanks with a 2-million-gallon tank. An ammonia storage tank was reduced from 40,000 gallons to 27,000.

Meanwhile, Burrillville Town Council president John Pacheco III has been visiting city and town councils across the state encouraging them to reject the power plant. So far, 11 municipalities passed resolutions opposing the power facility. In Rhode Island, opposition has come from Glocester, Hopkinton, Lincoln, Middletown, North Smithfield, Richmond, Scituate, South Kingstown and Tiverton. Thompson, Conn., also opposes the project.

On Election Day, the Burrillville Town Council gained two new members who oppose the project. Ray Trinque and Jeremy Bailey have been vocal critics of the power plant since it was announced in August 2015. They will be sworn in Dec. 13.

The Woonsocket City Council also elected new members who are critical of the project. Opponents of the power plant have been urging the public to call City Council members to express their opposition.