Hearing on possible suspension of Burrillville power plant canceled

A RENDERING of the proposed natural gas-powered electrical plant in Burrillville. / COURTESY INVENERGY LLC
A RENDERING of the proposed natural gas-powered electrical plant in Burrillville. / COURTESY INVENERGY LLC

PROVIDENCE – State regulators have canceled an upcoming hearing on whether to suspend Invenergy Thermal Development LLC’s application to build a power plant in Burrillville.

The R.I. Facility Siting Board made the announcement on Tuesday after Invenergy canceled a water agreement with the Narragansett Indian Tribe and withdrew a controversial lawsuit filed with federal regulators.

“Since the issues that were the basis of the show-cause hearing no longer exist, the order requiring Invenergy to appear to show cause is vacated as moot,” wrote Margaret E. Curran, board chairperson, in the order to cancel the hearing.

The water-supply agreement and the federal lawsuit had become thorny issues in an already controversial energy issue in the state. The gas-fired power plant is opposed by Burrillville and environmentalists, along with some local and state officials.

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Advocates, meanwhile, argue the plant would help reduce the cost of electricity and ensure long-term system reliability.

The issues slated for discussion Tuesday were twofold.

Invenergy last month filed a lawsuit with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission arguing it should not be responsible for paying costs associated with connecting its power plant to the electrical grid, known as interconnection costs.

The cost could total upward of $123 million, which Invenergy had argued should be shifted to ratepayers. The lawsuit raised concern among EFSB members, who ordered it be discussed during the show-cause hearing. Invenergy this week decided to withdraw that lawsuit.

Meanwhile, the water-supply agreement Invenergy made with the Narragansett Indians was likewise controversial, as some members of the tribe publicly opposed the deal. Invenergy – at the request of the tribe – canceled that agreement.

Since both issues have been resolved, the EFSB has deemed Tuesday’s meeting no longer necessary.

The Conservation Law Foundation, a vocal opponent of the project since its inception, tried to pre-emptively argue the hearing should not be canceled, as Invenergy still has another lawsuit pending with FERC.

“Invenergy’s withdrawal of one of the two pending FERC lawsuits has not mooted the need for a show-cause hearing,” wrote Jerry Elmer, CLF attorney, to the EFSB.

The board disagreed, saying the show-cause hearing was ordered specifically for the issues no longer on the table.

It’s possible Invenergy will still need to appear before the EFSB to discuss its second lawsuit with FERC. A Burrillville attorney on Jan. 10 filed a motion asking to address the issue in a separate hearing.

The board has not yet decided whether to allow that request.

­Eli Sherman is a PBN staff writer. Email him at Sherman@PBN.com, or follow him on Twitter @Eli_Sherman.