The Energy Facility Siting Board has temporarily suspended its review of energy developer Invenergy’s application to build a power plant in Burrillville. That decision has disappointed the town, residents and environmental groups.
The siting board called Invenergy’s application “incomplete and therefore not in compliance” with board rules. The company has yet to file some permits, and it is missing key information about how it plans to cool the power plant. Noncompliance is grounds for suspension or dismissal.
“Suspension is not your only option for the noncompliance for Invenergy,” said Michael McElroy, the town of Burrillville’s lawyer, who along with the Conservation Law Foundation’s attorney urged the board to dismiss the application.
But board member Janet Coit, director of the state Department of Environmental Management, said the rules also allow the board to give the company a reasonable opportunity to bring its application into compliance. The board granted the company 90 days, or until mid-January, to present its water plans and other missing elements of the application.
“We would be back [in mid-January], either talking about why we should further suspend or perhaps, depending on what we’ve received, discussing motions to dismiss or reacting to a plan that we have in front of us,” said Coit, “But at this point, I don’t think there’s more that we can do.”
Opponents of the power plant expressed their disappointment as Coit indicated the possibility of another extension down the road.
“I’m disgusted,” said John Pacheco, president of the Burrillville Town Council. “We followed the process. We’ve done what the governor has asked and the tail is wagging the dog right now.”
Pacheco hoped an incomplete application would be enough to dismiss the application all together.
“It sounds like they are going to keep pushing this down the road until they can approve it," said Pacheco. "That’s what it sounds like. It sounds like it’s bought and paid for. We followed the rules. The governor asked us to trust the process and here we are. So how can we trust anything?”
Gov. Gina Raimondo asked residents to trust the process when she visited Burrillville in July. From the start, the governor has been a supporter of the Invenergy proposal, raising questions about her influence.
“I don’t think it’s surprising that this board – that’s appointed by the governor – is making it easier for Invenergy,” said Nick Katkevich, an organizer with the environmental advocacy group FANG Collective.
The governor’s office insists the review process is independent and says the plant will not be cited if the board finds legitimate concerns that cannot be addressed. But some residents don’t have faith that’s the case.
“[While] I think the Energy Facility Siting Board is trying to be fair, it [the decision to suspend] does put the residents at a significant disadvantage,” said Burrillville resident Kathy Sherman, who lives across the street from the proposed site. She said she can’t put her house on the market knowing that the plant could be built and now she has to wait longer to make a decision about her future in Burrillville.
An Invenergy company official said he’s grateful for the opportunity to file more information with the siting board.
Yesterday's hearing can be viewed online.