By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff
The Conservation Law Foundation is challenging a key climate-change assertion made by the developer of the proposed Clear River Energy Center.
At issue is how Massachusetts accounts for emissions from power plants. Invenergy Thermal Development, through testimony from its energy expert, Ryan Hardy, asserts that Massachusetts uses the consumption-based accounting method. That method favors the construction of new power plants, because the emissions are spread across the electric grid to ratepayers in several states. The production-based accounting method measures emissions from power plants within a single state.
Rhode Island adopted consumption-based accounting in part because it was told that neighboring states such as Massachusetts also use consumption-based accounting for tracking greenhouse-gas emissions. If built, the Clear River Energy Center proposed for the woods of Burrillville, R.I., would be the state’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide and jeopardize efforts to achieve emission-reduction targets. Under the consumption-based accounting method, however, emissions would actually dip slightly.
The Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) has acknowledged that the reports submitted to it by the Office of Energy Resources (OER) and the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) were favorable to the proposed power plant in part because they asserted — using the consumption method — that it wouldn’t prevent Rhode Island from achieving its non-binding renewable-energy goals, as set by the Executive Climate Change Coordination Council.
The EFSB has since ruled that the PUC advisory opinion is outdated and won’t be part of the project’s testimony. Meanwhile, OER is revisiting its report.
On Nov. 19, the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) asked the EFSB to take note of Hardy’s Sept. 18 testimony that incorrectly stated that Massachusetts was using the consumption-based method. Hardy also wrongly stated that a 2016 lawsuit forced Massachusetts to adopt consumption-based accounting.
The accounting method was reaffirmed by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on Sept. 18, when it denied a lawsuit by the New England Power Generators Association to force the state to adopt consumption-based accounting. The trade association failed to assert that “leakage,” which says emission policies in other states influence Massachusetts, warranted the adoption of consumption-based accounting.
The validity given to the production-based accounting therefore undermines the accuracy of the argument that the Clear River Energy Center won’t impede Rhode Island’s climate policy goals, a point that opponents of the power plant such as CLF will highlight going forward.
All parties involved with the Invenergy application are scheduled to meet to discuss the hearing schedule on Nov. 27. The EFSB is expected to reconvene with hearings the following day.
Request to strike testimony
CLF also filed a request on Nov. 19 asking that the EFSB strike a portion of Hardy’s testimony relating to emissions from the proposed natural-gas/diesel power plant. The emissions estimates from the nearly 1,000-megawatt facility were based on the power-purchase agreement with ISO New England. But ISO New England has withdrawn the power-purchase deal because of delays in the approval process. Therefore, CLF argues that the emission projections are inaccurate now that Invenergy doesn’t know if and how much of its electricity will be sold.
Jerry Elmer, senior attorney for CLF, also asked the EFSB to deny Invenergy time to resubmit new emission estimates.
“This case is more than three years old, and Invenergy has had more than enough time to get its ducks in a row,” he said.
Elmer said the EFSB shouldn’t have to endure further delays due to “Invenergy’s bad planning.”
“Invenergy should not be given yet another opportunity to clean up its mess,” he said.
In Washington, D.C., Invenergy is asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to stop ISO New England from canceling its power-purchase agreement. However, CLF is accusing Invenergy of being untruthful about how close the power plant is to receiving approval.
CLF says paperwork submitted to FERC by Invenergy on Nov. 9 falsely claims that the power-purchase agreement is the remaining item needed to fulfill the application requirements for the EFSB. But CLF has noted that Invenergy still must receive federal and state air pollution and wetland destruction permits, as well as approval for its plan to connect the power plant to the electric grid.
CLF is asking the EFSB to accept the Invenergy FERC document as part of the “record of lies told by Invenergy.”