Permit Reviews Move Ahead Despite Invenergy Ruling

Paul Roselli, standing, of the Burrillville Land Trust reads a letter to Janet Coit, far right, chairwoman of the Rhode Island Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council, during the council’s June 24 meeting. (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News)

Paul Roselli, standing, of the Burrillville Land Trust reads a letter to Janet Coit, far right, chairwoman of the Rhode Island Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council, during the council’s June 24 meeting. (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News)

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — The proposed Burrillville power plant may be dead, but its permitting process continues.

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) will be accepting public comments on the air-pollution application for the recently denied Clear River Energy Center until July 15.

DEM told ecoRI News that it is moving forward with the application review while its attorneys decide how to address the first denial of a power-plant application by the Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB).

A public hearing for DEM’s air permit was held June 19. A hearing, however, wasn’t planned for a wetlands construction permit being considered by the Army Corps of Engineers. In all, 121 acres of forest and wetlands were slated to be disrupted had the fossil-fuel facility been approved by the EFSB.

The developer, Chicago-based Invenergy Thermal Development, can’t appeal the ruling until a written report of the decision is issued later this summer. The report will explain the three-person EFSB’s unanimous decision to reject a license for the natural-gas/diesel power plant.

At its June 20 meeting, the EFSB said the electricity from the nearly 1,000-megawatt facility isn’t needed for the region. The written decision will not include topics the EFSB didn’t address or discuss at that meeting, such as the environmental and economic impacts of the proposed $1 billion facility.

Public comment for the wetlands construction permit ended July 3.

In a letter to the Army Corps, Save The Bay said the EFSB decision is grounds for halting the application process. The Providence-based nonprofit said the site of the proposed project, in the northwest corner of Rhode Island, deserves a thorough environmental review because of its extensive biodiversity. The Clear and Branch rivers watershed contains more wildlife than the larger rivers it drains into. The site is also within the largest track of contiguous forest in the state and abuts large tracts of forest in both Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Wildlife in the parcel includes at least 520 animal and plant species. It contains one state-endangered species, four state-threatened species, 10 species of concern, two protected species, and 47 species of greatest conservation need.

“Intact forest ecosystems form critical green infrastructure that protects our overall water quality and quality of life while preserving resiliency against the effects of future climate changes,” said Kate McPherson, Save The Bay’s Narragansett Bay riverkeeper and author of the letter.

The Army Corps has no anticipated date when it will announce a decision on the wetland construction permit.

Paul Roselli, president of the Burrillville Land Trust, and a key figure in the power-plant opposition movement, wants a science advisory committee within the state Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council (EC4) to review DEM’s air-pollution permit. Roselli said the Science and Technical Advisory Board (STAB) has the latest information on greenhouse-gas emissions from the Clear River Energy Center and how it would impact state climate emission reduction goals and mitigation efforts.

“With this review, the EC4/STAB can establish a working model for all major source emissions productions, now and in the future,” Roselli said.

STAB member Timmons Roberts will present a report on state greenhouse-gas reduction projections at the EC4 meeting scheduled for Sept. 12.