By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff
BURRILLVILLE, R.I. — Developments in the fossil-fuel power plant drama are happening at a furious pace.
On Oct. 20, the Tribal Council of the Narragansett Indian Tribe asked the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) for intervenor status in the process to vet the proposed Clear River Energy Center.
The recent request highlights the rift within the Narragansett Indian Tribe over its decision to serve as a backup water source for the $1 billion energy project. At an Oct 10 public hearing at Burrillville High School, tribe members Randy Noka and Silvermoon LaRose said the agreement goes against land-use needs at the reservation in Charlestown. They promised to fight the decision, which they said was made by tribal leaders in September without a vote by the full tribe.
“We do not support the agreement. It was made in violation of tribal constitution and bylaws,” LaRose said.
The letter from Tribal Council attorney Shannah Kurland states that tribal members haven't seen the agreement, much less voted on it. They can only assume that the water will be drawn from the lower Wood River aquifer and wells that supply water to the reservation.
“The outcome of the EFSB's decision, should it precipitate or allow for the sale of any of the Tribe's water, even on a contingent basis, could potentially bind Narragansett Tribal members and the Tribal Council charged with representing them, for generations to come,” Kurland wrote in the request to the EFSB.
The motion to serve as an intervenor comes three days after the EFSB granted intervenor status to the town of Charlestown, due to the town’s concern about impacts the use of Narragansett Indian Tribe water to the cool the proposed power plant will have on local water supplies.
On Oct. 19, Invenergy Thermal Development LLC, the developer of the proposed power plant, asked the EFSB to grant a hearing in Charlestown over its water plan. Invenergy’s primary water source is the town of Johnston, but that agreement is being challenged in Rhode Island Superior Court by the Conservation Law (CLF) Foundation and the town of Burrillville.
The Benn Water Supply Co. in Hopkinton has also been named a backup water supplier and water hauler for the power plant.
However, unknown until recently, the Watuppa Water Board in Fall River, Mass., approved in August the sale of water to the Clear River Energy Center as a backup supply to Johnston. Benn Water would haul up to 18 tanker trucks of water per day from the Bedford Street hydrant in Fall River. Invenergy would pay a $30,000 reservation fee to have access to the water and pay an additional $250 per 6,000-gallon tanker truck. The Watuppa water district serves Fall River, Westport, and Freetown, Mass., and Tiverton, R.I.
Watch a video of the vote here. The Benn Water deal begins at the 21-minute mark.