Governor promises to meet with project opponents
By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo will likely veto legislation that would allow Burrillville residents to vote on a key aspect of the proposed natural-gas power plant — a bill that could perhaps halt the project.
“You cannot change the rules of the game halfway through the game if you want to be a business-friendly state,” Raimondo said during a June 10 interview with WPRI-TV.
She said health and environmental impacts could derail the $700 million project, “but you cannot — if you want to run a state that is open for business — pull the rug out from under an important regulatory process halfway through the process.”
The governor went to say she would likely veto the current version of the legislation that would allow residents to verify a tax deal between the Burrillville Town Council and the project's developer, Chicago-based Invenergy.
On June 7, the House passed its version of the bill (H8240). The Senate version, however, was harshly criticized by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee for creating a loophole that would allow other municipalities to undo tax deals created by their elected officials.
“I think it’s a very dangerous precedent that we are establishing here if we somehow usurp the local decision,” Sen. Frank Lombardi, D-Cranston, said during the June 8 hearing at the Statehouse. The bill was held for further study.
Despite the resistance in the Senate, the Judiciary Committee will hear the Keable bill and the Fogarty bill on June 15 at 3 p.m.
In light of Raimondo's likely veto, opponents of the power plant are urging their supporters to e-mail, call and write letters to the governor urging her not to reject the bill if it reaches her desk.
Jerry Elmer, senior attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation, said supporting the power plant will hurt her political goals. "If Governor Raimondo were to veto the Keable Fogarty Bill, and allow the construction of a new, fracked gas, fossil fuel power plant in Burrillville, over the expressed wishes of the people of Burrillville, that veto would be politically very, very damaging to any future political ambitions she might have. Conservation Law Foundation calls on Governor Raimondo to sign the Keable Fogarty Bill into law."
Raimondo also announced June 10 that she would make good on her promise to meet with local residents. The public meeting is scheduled for July 18 from 6-9 p.m. at Burrillvile High School.