CLF Sues Over Johnston Reselling Water For Burrillville Power Plant

Mar 7, 2017

Demonstrators protesting the Burrillville power plant proposal last year.
Credit RIPR

The Conservation Law Foundation is suing in an attempt to block Johnston from reselling water for Invenergy's proposed Burrillville power plant.

In its Superior Court lawsuit, the CLF argues that Johnston lacks a legal basis for reselling water for the power plant. The environmental group points to a 1915 law specifying why a city or town can take or receive water.

Conservation Law Foundation lawyer Max Greene said the law permits towns to resell water for only three specific uses.

“Johnston’s purchase of water for resale to a power plant developer proposing a facility in a different town is not any of those," Greene said. "It’s certainly not residential, it’s not an emergency, and it’s not an ordinary municipal purpose.”

But Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena said he’s not concerned about the lawsuit.

"I feel very, very confident, very, very comfortable in what we did with our agreemeement with Invenergy is legal," Polisena said. "I think it will survive any court challenge, and obviously we’re going to go forward with the deal we made." 

Polisena said Johnston was not notified by the CLF about the lawsuit before he began getting calls from reporters.

Johnston stands to gain millions of dollars over 20 years by reselling water from Providence to Invenergy. Critics who object to the power plant say in part it would perpetuate a reliance on fossil fuels.

Power plant opponents criticize what they call a lack of notice about a meeting where the Johnston Town Council approved a plan to resell Providence water to Invenergy. Johnston officials have defended their approach to an agreement that, they say, will benefit the town.

The proposed power plant still faces approval by the state Energy Facilities Siting Board.