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Saturday, November 16, 2019

It’s really most sincerely dead

Invenergy declines to appeal. Their proposed power plant is dead.

View image on TwitterFriday, November 15 in Rhode Island was remarkable because of what didn’t happen.

Outside the Court House on Benefit Street in Providence, a small group of people anxiously waited to see if Invenergy would appeal the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB)’s decision to reject their proposed $1B fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant, aimed at the pristine forests of our state’s northwest corner. 

The power plant had until 4 pm on Friday to appeal the decision to the Rhode Island Supreme Court.

At around 4:01 pm, writes power plant opponent Paul Roselli, the group received a text message from Invenergy that there would be no appeal. 

A minute later the group received an email from from the Rhode Island Supreme Court clerk’s office which read that the court “did not receive a petition for writ of certiorari in this matter as of the close of business today.”

“It was a good feeling,” said Paul Roselli – president of the Burrillville Land Trust (BLT) and one of the key opposition leaders to the power plant. 

“This all started August 1, 2015, when the Governor of Rhode Island standing with Invenergy’s owner Michael Polsky, declared before cameras and members of the Providence Chamber of Commerce, ‘We will do everything we can to make sure you’re successful here.’

“Now it’s truly over. And we, Rhode Island, won.”

Governor Gina Raimondo never gave up on fighting for the power plant, despite her public protestations of neutrality as to the outcome. Her Office of Energy Resources was at every session of EFSB hearings, arguing in support of the power plant alongside Invenergy.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Charlestown was dragged directly into this fight when Invenergy made a deal with a Narragansett tribal official under which the tribe would sell water for cooling the plant. That water would be drawn from the underground source that supplies Charlestown residents with their drinking water. The deal was denounced by many members of the Tribe along with just about everyone else in town. That widespread opposition killed the deal.

But Raimondo’s support was not enough to overcome the efforts of the people of Burrillville and allies. 

As Roselli points out, “Groups with the acronym BASE, FANG, CLF, NNPP, BLT, and more familiar names such as the Town of Burrillville, The Nature Conservancy, Audubon Society of Rhode Island, Save the Bay, thirty+ cities and towns in Rhode Island and nearby Connecticut and Massachusetts, and many more” came out against the power plant, and never stopped fighting.

"This decision is historic, perhaps on par with the Burning of the Gaspee, which some see as the opening salvo in the American Revolution. The EFSB, it should be noted, had never before ruled against the building of a power plant in Rhode Island. Perhaps in the future we will see this event as the day we turned the corner on fossil fuels and climate change.

The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) and the Town of Burrillville led the legal fight against the power plant.

“I am pleased to tell you that Invenergy is dead,” wrote CLF lead attorney Jerry Elmer in an email. 

“Invenergy’s appeal period ended at 4:00 PM today, and no appeal was filed. (I was at the Supreme Court when they closed up for the day, so I know this for sure.) This is a victory for the climate, a victory for the people of Burrillville, and a victory for us all. Thank you for your support of CLF through this long struggle. Invenergy filed its application on October 29, 2015, and now – more than four years later – we won!

“And yet,” continued Elmer, “as sweet as this victory is, there is much (much!) more work to do to address the climate crisis. Please make this work your own in the coming months and years. Together we can succeed.”

“Perhaps this is the beginning of the end for fossil fuel use for the production of electricity in Rhode Island,” said Paul Roselli. “I think so.”

Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade. Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading.