Invenergy, Opponents Spar Ahead of Public Hearings

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

BURRILLVILLE, R.I. — It was a relatively quiet week for the proposed fossil-fuel power plant. Nevertheless, the jockeying continues ahead of public hearings that are scheduled to begin next month.

The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) fired the latest salvo, when it submitted a memorandum Nov. 14 restating its request that the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) require further investigation into the controversial water agreements and other actions made by Invenergy Thermal Development LLC.

CLF sited three developments that require more time and information. The first is that the EFSB look into the implications of having only half of the power from the proposed Clear River Energy Center (CREC) approved for purchase by ISO New England, the operator of the regional power grid. CLF has interpreted that development as proof that the power plant's electricity isn't needed in the region and poses constraints on financing for the $1 billion project.

CLF wants time to conduct more research, get new advisory opinions from state agencies, and interview expert witnesses.

“Today it is clearer than ever that Invenergy’s proposed fracked-gas and diesel-oil power plant proposal is not viable. The ISO, the operator of the New England power grid, has already disqualified one of Invenergy’s two turbines, and ISO will soon have the power to kick Invenergy’s other turbine out of the market. The ISO doesn’t need Invenergy’s electricity, and no one needs Invenergy’s carbon pollution,” CLF senior attorney Jerry Elmer said.

Invenergy says it doesn't oppose new expert testimony, but otherwise believes CLF is simply rehashing old arguments. Any questions about the sale of electricity to the grid through the forward-capacity auction can be addressed during the final stage of hearings that are scheduled to begin Dec. 8, according to the Chicago-based company.

ISO New England declined to buy half of the electricity capacity from the proposed power plant in February 2016 and February 2017. On Nov. 1, Invenergy announced that ISO New England told the Illinois energy developer not to bother applying for a third electricity auction this February. Invenergy noted that the order was the result of scheduling and permitting delays. Setbacks in securing a water source for CREC have delayed construction by at least a year, forcing Invenergy to auction off its promised energy production for 2019 to another power producer.

Updated advisory opinions were done by the Office of Energy Resources and the Division of Statewide Planning as a result of changes to the water plan and therefore new ones are necessary, Invenergy said.

While CLF seeks a delay in proceedings, the town of Burrillville wants the EFSB to dismiss the power plant’s application because of Invenergy’s delay in releasing information about the decision by ISO New England to exclude electric capacity from the upcoming energy auction. The delay gave Invenergy time to have its consultants write a favorable analysis of the setback, while the town, CLF and the EFSB were unaware of the development. The town of Burrillville also accuses Invenergy of withholding the correspondence from ISO New England explaining the exclusion from the forward-capacity auction.

“Instead, Invenergy ‘hid the ball’ for its own benefit, and continues to do so,” according to the town's motion to dismiss.

Burrillville also accuses Invenergy of failing to disclose funding for the pro-power plant group Rhode Islanders for Affordable Energy, a coalition of mostly construction, contractors and union groups. The motion cites an ecoRI News article that reported that Invenergy admitted to funding the group. The town says Invenergy should provide additional information about the funding.

The town also claims Invenergy failed to disclose a deal to buy water for the power plant from the city of Fall River, Mass., despite, assurances from Invenergy that no deal exists. Invenergy disagrees, saying in a filing that no water deal exists between Fall River and Invenergy, only an agreement to sell water to Benn Water, the Hopkinton-based water trucking company that will deliver water to the power plant on a backup basis.

According to Invenergy, “any allegation that Invenergy 'concealed' or 'failed to disclose' any agreement involving CREC’s contingent/redundant water supply sources is patently false, and reveals the town and CLF’s true motive in this proceeding — to pursue a disingenuous course of false accusations, innuendo and 'alternative facts' in the vain hope that Invenergy will tire of the opponents’ charade and simply go away.”

The EFSB has yet to respond to the motions filed by CLF and the town of Burrillville. Public hearings about Invenergy’s water agreement with the Narragansett Indian Tribe are scheduled for Dec. 5 at the Charlestown Elementary School and Dec. 6 at Burrillville High School. Both meetings are scheduled to start at 6 p.m.