Videos and text by TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff
BURRILLVILLE, R.I. — A recent hearing at Burrillville High School offered one last opportunity for the public to sound off on the proposed Clear River Energy Center (CREC).
Several opponents of the nearly 1,000-megawatt fossil-fuel facility proposed for 67 acres of woodland said it was inevitable that a key permit would be approved.
“I am here speaking to you today knowing that there is nothing I can say that will stop the Department of Environmental Management from approving Invenergy’s draft air permit,” said Stephanie Sloman, a retired environmental engineer.
Sloman said federal and state environmental agencies are too business friendly and provide loopholes that make it easy for power plants to be built. The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), she said, doesn’t have the money and staff to adequately oversee emissions and conduct enforcement. Fines are too small to discourage power plants from polluting.
A pay-to-pollute system, Sloman said, allows power plants to spew harmful emissions by buying credits and allowances.
“It is legal, but is it ethical? No,” Sloman said.
Local resident Norm Desjarlais claimed the state environmental agency was focused on accommodating corporations rather than protecting the environment.
“You folks (are) managing it for the corporations that are coming here to squander our resources,” Desjalais said.
He challenged the five-member panel from DEM’s Office of Air Resources to show him otherwise by denying the permit. “Prove me wrong. Please, prove me wrong,” he said.
In the first hour of statements other speakers highlighted the tons of nitrogen oxides and the 51 other pollutants that would emitted by the natural-gas/diesel facility proposed by Chicago-based Invenergy Thermal Development.
Pascoag resident Mary Jane Bailey claimed that the CREC will release 14 carcinogens and 10,000 tons of carbon dioxide every day.
“This is gong to force us, essentially, to be breathing in cigarette smoke, when we don't choose to smoke ourselves,” she said.
Glocester resident Dennis Franchard lives a mile from the proposed site on Wallum Lake Road. He noted that lakes and ponds are still polluted from mills that closed nearly a century ago.
“The idea of dumping carcinogens, heavy metals, and other hazards into the atmosphere by the proposed plant will have no significant effect on water, soil, wildlife, or people is baffling,” Franchard said, “as many of these pollutants will long outlive the proposed power plant.”
The DEM panel didn’t answer questions or comment during the June 19 hearing.
Written comments can still be submitted via e-mail until July 15 to email@example.com. The draft permit and a CREC fact sheet are on DEM’s website.
A decision on the air permit is expected within 90 days of the end of the comment period.
The June 19 hearing was held a day before the Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB) holds the last public meetings to decide the fate of Invenergy’s application. The air permit can be issued after EFSB’s decision.