Opposition group to visit proposed Burrillville power plant site ahead of final hearings

A COALITION opposing the proposed Invenergy power plant in Burrillville plans a “walk in the woods” Tuesday, ahead of public hearings on the project. / COURTESY INVENERGY
A COALITION opposing the proposed Invenergy power plant in Burrillville plans a “walk in the woods” Tuesday, ahead of the start of final public hearings on the project. / COURTESY INVENERGY

BURRILLVILLE – A coalition opposing the proposed Invenergy power plant in Burrillville plans a “walk in the woods” Tuesday to draw attention to the impact the plant would have on surrounding wildlife and forestland.

The event comes shortly before the Rhode Island Energy Facility Siting Board is scheduled to continue final hearings on the proposal July 19 at the board’s principal office at the state Public Utilities Commission at 89 Jefferson Blvd. in Warwick.

The Invenergy hearings are expected to continue through October. The three-member board may decide by the end of the year whether to approve the project, said board spokesman Todd Bianco.

So far, only two board members have been hearing the Invenergy proposal after board member Parag Agrawal resigned from his position at the R.I. Division of Planning before the hearings started in April. Associate Director of the state Division of Planning Meredith Brady is slated to replace Agrawal beginning July 16, Bianco said.

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The board consists of three state officials: the chairwoman of the Public Utilities Commission, Margaret Curran, the Director of the R.I. Department of Environmental Management, Janet L. Coit, and the associate director of the state Division of Planning (formerly Agrawal and now Brady).

The coalition and others had supported a recently unsuccessful Rhode Island bill to expand the board to seven members, including two members of the public appointed by town officials from communities where new or expanded power plants are proposed.

Supporters of the bill said it was intended to provide more rights to communities regarding power plants, instead of leaving such decisions solely to state officials.

The bill was taken up during the state General Assembly’s session that ended last month. The bill passed the House, but it stalled in the Senate.

Invenergy’s proposed Clean River Energy Center would use natural gas and sometimes oil to produce electricity, Bianco said.

The company builds, owns, and operates power generation and energy storage facilities in North America and Europe. The company submitted its proposal for the Burrillville plant in October 2015.

Among the issues the board is expected to consider is whether the plant is needed for power generation; the various impacts the plant might have; as well as related costs, Bianco said.

The board also is expected to consider the proposed plant’s “socioeconomic impact to the fabric of the state’s economy,” he added.

To be located at the northwest corner of Rhode Island, the Burrillville plant would jeopardize a 26.6-square mile forest that stretches into Connecticut and Massachusetts, said the coalition opposing the plant.

“What is at stake?” the group said in statement Friday. “Land that is valued for eco-tourism, lush woods that have introduced generations of campers to nature and, perhaps most importantly, a great forest eco-system that houses hundreds of animal and plant species.”

Tuesday, members of the Burrillville Town Council are expected to join the coalition – composed of environmental and tourism organizations – for an “informative hike” through the woods around the site.

By inviting members of the news media on the tour, the coalition said it is trying to highlight the impact the plant would have on the natural environment there, as well as spots used by the public for camping and other recreational activities.

The coalition consists of the Burrillville Conservation Commission, Save the Bay, the Nature Conservancy, the Audubon Society, the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council and the Metacomet Land Trust.

An Eagle Scout also is expected to join the group for the tour, as the forest there includes a Boy Scout camp, according to the coalition.

Scott Blake is a PBN staff writer. He can be contacted at Blake@PBN.com.