Text and video by TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff
PROVIDENCE — Day 2 of a week of protests against the proposed Burrillville power plant ended April 19 with the arrest of one activist at the Statehouse. Lisa Petrie of Richmond was arrested and charged with willful trespassing after she refused to leave the outer office of Gov. Gina Raimondo.
The peaceful protest began at about 2:30 p.m., when a dozen activists sat in a circle in the State Room, a public meeting space Raimondo moved into the when she took office in January 2015. Raimondo was in the building but declined to meet with the protesters.
The day before, several members of the same group staged a protest outside the office of Marion Gold, the commissioner of the Office of Energy Resources. Gold met in a conference room with activists for about 10 minutes. She offered a somewhat neutral stance on the proposed $700 million Clear River Energy Center, saying she prefers that the application process play out.
On April 19, the activists hoped to have a similar meeting with Raimondo. They announced that they wouldn't leave until she recanted her support for the nearly 1-gigawatt power station or agree to attend a public forum in Burrillville.
Raimondo didn't respond to either appeal. She supports a multi-governor effort to bring more natural gas into southern New England through the construction of power plants and the expansion of pipelines. Supporters of these projects claim they will lower energy costs, reduce winter fuel shortages and ease the transition to renewable power.
A spokeswoman for the governor told ecoRI News that Raimondo has meet with some of the same protestors previously.
“The Governor and her team are closely monitoring the plans and listening to community feedback and concerns,” press secretary Marie Aberger wrote in an e-mail. “We will be learning more about the health and environmental impacts of the plans as the Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB) continues its review of the proposal, and reviewing those impacts carefully.”
The protesters left her office peacefully as the building was closing at 7 p.m., except for Petrie who joined the action with the intention of being arrested. She was released later that evening and is due in court May 6.
Meanwhile, Rhode Island-based opponents of regional fossil-fuel projects participated in a sit-in April 20 at the office of National Grid in Waltham, Mass. Four people were arrested after refusing to leave the premises. The activists are drawing attention to utility rate hikes, gas and electricity shutoffs for low-income groups, and National Grid’s support for several natural-gas projects in southern New England, such as a proposed liquefied natural gas storage facility on the Providence waterfront.
Burrillville residents and power plant opponents have been organizing events and meetings to build opposition to the proposed project, which they claim will bring many health and environmental harms to the rural town. The EFSB is expected to rule on the project this fall. A number of opponents are expected to attend an April 21 meeting at Town Hall.