Charlestown presses for intervenor status in Invenergy power plant water issue

Charlestown presses for intervenor status in Invenergy power plant water issue

The Westerly Sun

WARWICK — The state agency reviewing plans for a power plant in Burrillville has determined that Charlestown will be affected by the project based on the Narragansett Indian Tribe’s promise to supply water to the plant, and therefore deserves a local public hearing on the project.

The Energy Facility Siting Board determined Tuesday that Charlestown should be considered an “affected community” and will hold a public hearing in town at a date to be determined.

Because the tribe contracted with Invenergy Development LLC to supply water to the company’s proposed power plant in Burrillville, Charlestown Solicitor Peter Ruggiero filed a motion Wednesday for the town to intervene. Ruggiero presented the tribe’s heavily redacted contract to supply water for the Invenergy plant to the Town Council on Oct. 10.

The siting board is required to give the town at least 30 days notice before the public hearing. Expert testimony before the siting board was to begin Oct. 31 and run through Jan. 17 but will be delayed until after the hearing in Charlestown has concluded.

In October 2015, Invenergy Development LLC submitted a proposal to the siting board to construct and operate a $1 billion natural gas- and oil-fired 900-watt power plant, to be located on Wallum Lake Road in Burrillville. In the application, Invenergy proposed to obtain water to cool the plant’s power production systems from various sources.

In the project’s Water Supply Plan — Supplement, dated Sept. 28, 2017, the Tribe’s wells are identified as the water source, according to the town’s Motion to Intervene.

A protective court order excludes the contract’s public exposure, but if the town received intervenor status its attorneys would have access to the information.

From what the documents reveal, water would be extracted from the Narragansett Tribe’s land, which lies within the municipal boundaries of Charlestown, and trucked to Burrillville.

In the motion to intervene, Ruggiero wrote “the various public documents available show a range of 15,000 gallons of water per day up to what the Supply Plan states at times approximately 724,320 [gallons per day].”

Ruggiero also stated that “the water supply for the area comprising Charlestown, including the NIT, is through a variety of private, public and quasi-municipal wells using a common aquifer, known as the Lower Wood River Aquifer, located within the Pawcatuck River Basin.”

Ruth Platner, chairwoman of the Charlestown Planning Commission, testified at the Energy Facility Siting Board’s public hearing Oct. 10, at the Burrillville High School Auditorium in Harrisville, which coincided with the Charlestown Town Council’s October meeting.

In her testimony, Platner opposed the removal and trucking of groundwater from Charlestown for use at the power plant based on insufficient notice, insufficient information and additional legal problems.

Charlestown became an affected town, she said, the day Invenergy signed a contract with the Narragansett Indian Tribe to supply water to the power plant.

“Despite being affected, Charlestown has not received any notice from Invenergy or from the Siting Board that they have an interest in these proceedings.”

The heavily redacted documents make it impossible to identify where the water will be withdrawn from the Narragansett parcels and what routes will be affected by tanker truck traffic, she said in her testimony. The maximum withdrawal quantity is also missing from the documents, making it impossible to gauge the impact on the town and the aquifer, she said.

Because some members of the Narragansett Tribe have objected to the contract, the legality of the document could come under the jurisdiction of American Indian Law and the Rhode Island Indian Claims Settlement Act, she said in her testimony.

It is likely the power plant will switch from gas to oil in the winter when more homes are heated by gas, Platner said Sunday. When it is gas-fired, the plant will require 15,000 gallons per day for cooling, but when it is oil-fired, the plant will need 724,320 gallons per day, she said.

“That’s the big issue, there would be a constant stream of tanker trucks on snow-covered roads,” she said. “It makes no sense to drive water, using big diesel trucks, all the way across the state, for a fossil-fuel powered plant at a time when we’re supposed to be moving to alternative [sources of energy].”


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