By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff
PROVIDENCE — Protesters gathered Oct. 26 outside Gov. Gina Raimondo’s house on the East Side to urge the governor to oppose two major fossil-fuel projects: the Burrillville power plant and the liquefied natural gas storage facility proposed for the city’s waterfront.
As the evening protest took place, the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) revealed the dates for the long-awaited public workshops regarding the proposed LNG project. The meetings are scheduled for Nov. 14 and 28 at the Department of Administration Building, One Capital Hill. Both meetings are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. If needed, a third hearing would be held early December.
James Boyd, coastal policy manager for CRMC, told ecoRI News that he expects large crowds for the hearings, but he wants the public to know that the state agency isn't being asked to approve the project but simply determine if it complies with coastal building regulations that address setbacks and sea-level rise.
A CRMC staff report is expected Oct. 27. CRMC’s executive director, Grover Fugate, will evaluate the report, as will the CRMC board of governance.
On Oct. 27, The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) issued an approval for the excavation of contaminated soil at the site for the proposed LNG cooling, or liquefaction facility. National Grid is also awaiting a water quality certification and pollution discharge elimination system permit.
The Federal Regulatory Energy Commission (FERC) has the ultimate say on the $180 million liquefaction facility, which has been proposed by National Grid. FERC will consider CRMC’s and DEM’s analysis of the project, but the federal agency has full authority to approve or deny the proposal, thanks to the Natural Gas Act of 1938.
A decision by FERC isn't expend until 2018.
After major opposition, FERC withdrew the application for an LNG shipping terminal at the same location on Allens Avenue in 2005. Several of the same opponents to the LNG terminal were outside Raimondo’s house on Oct. 26.
Ida Schmulowitz and her husband, John, said both projects pose health and safety risks to Rhode Island Hospital and the South Providence neighborhood, which is home to many low-income families — and a contrast to Raimondo’s upscale enclave.
“I just feel that if the LNG project was in another neighborhood they wouldn’t get away with it,” Schmulowitz said.
Brown University students with the Rhode Island Student Climate Coalition and groups sympathetic to the cause also participated in the peaceful protest, holding signs that read “Wake Up Gina” and “Environmental Justice Now.”
Aaron Ziemer of the Brown Democratic Socialists of America, said, “I feel like climate change hurts the most venerable people. The LNG project is primarily in a community of color and they all seem like social-justice issues.”
Raimondo was at event in Johnston and didn't meet the protesters outside her home.