Video and text by TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff
WARWICK, R.I. — Several motions to dismiss or delay the proposed Burrillville fossil-fuel power plant were denied Sept. 15 by the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB).
The town of Burrillville argued that Invenergy Thermal Development LLC failed to submit blueprints and renderings for 52 structures it wants to build on a 67-acre wooded site on Wallum Lake Road. The Chicago-based developer was also accused of omitting plans for supplying and disposing of water used to cool the facility.
Burrillville’s attorney, Michael McElroy, said the lack of detailed designs has prevented the town’s building inspector from determining if the buildings are up to code and whether they require variances from the planning board.
“By law, each structure needs to file a plan. We don't even have one,” said McElroy, referring to the rules that govern the siting of new power plants in Rhode Island.
Invenergy maintained that “narrative descriptions” that list dimensions of the structures are suitable for its EFSB application and that many of the design details will be vetted in upcoming hearings. The company accused the town of stalling the approval process so that the company withdraws its billion-dollar proposal.
“We believe they’re just trying to create a false impression for this board,” said Alan Shoer, an attorney representing Invenergy.
In the end, the three-person EFSB scuttled the town's hopes of granting the motions to dismiss or delay the proposal, when board chairwoman Margaret Curran said, “We currently have a complete application before us. I don’t think that complete plans require that there must be a separate, individual drawing (for each building)."
EFSB member Janet Coit referenced a court decision related to Burrillville’s other power plant, Ocean State Power, that concluded that local zoning issues and planning documents can be submitted after the EFSB’s final decision.
The EFSB also turned down a request by the town to delay the proceedings until a Superior Court lawsuit concludes. In that case, the town of Burrillville and the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) are challenging the agreement that allows the town of Johnston to sell municipal water to Invenergy.
Curran said the EFSB will monitor the case but that the “outside challenge (court case) is not relevant to move this case forward.”
The Sept. 15 decisions comes about three weeks before the start of the final phase of the approval process. A public hearing is scheduled for Oct. 10 at Burrillville High School, followed by a series of testimony and evidentially hearings that are scheduled to begin Oct. 31. Those hearings will likely continue until January. The EFSB is expected to deliver its decision in February or March.
About 15 opponents of the proposed power plant left the gallery of the EFSB meeting room after another failed attempt to slow or stop the project. The town of Burrillville and CLF have attempted several times to have the EFSB dismiss or suspend Invenergy’s application. Both have argued that Invenergy exceeded time limits to submit information and that the application lacks information on its water plan and other environmental impacts.
Any appeal of its rulings would occur after the EFSB issues it overall decision on the project.