Woonsocket Call - - VALLEY/Y/NATION - Fol­low Russ Olivo on Twit­ter @rus­so­livo

Many of the changes ad­dress con­cerns raised about the power plant sit­ing process by those ad­vo­cat­ing against Chicago-based In­ven­ergy Ther­mal De­vel­op­ment Corp.’s proposed 1000-megawatt, nat­u­ral gas-burn­ing power plant off Wal­lum Lake Road – in par­tic­u­lar, the pitfalls of the three-mem­ber EFSB. The

panel is cur­rently oper­at­ing with just two mem­bers af­ter Divi­sion of Plan­ning As­so­ciate Di­rec­tor Parag Agrawal left his po­si­tion last month and has yet to be re­placed – even as In­ven­ergy’s ap­pli­ca­tion en­ters fi­nal hear­ings.

“The peo­ple of Burrillville have been told time and again to trust the process that will de­cide the fate of the power plant,” said Ke­able. “We and many of the other stake­hold­ers be­lieve that process can be im­proved. Rhode Is­land’s

En­ergy Fa­cil­i­ties Sit­ing Board con­sists of just three mem­bers, all of whom are ap­pointed by the ex­ec­u­tive (branch). Our neigh­bors in Mas­sachusetts and Con­necti­cut have larger sit­ing boards that rep­re­sent the di­ver­gent in­ter­ests in­volved in sit­ing power plant projects. Power plants have a tremen­dous im­pact on their host com­mu­nity and the en­vi­ron­ment as well as our en­ergy re­sources, so they should be vet­ted in a very thor­ough, care­ful process that war­rants the pub­lic’s trust.”

The bill would add four mem­bers to the EFSB when­ever it meets to dis­cuss a proposed ma­jor power plant or a ma­jor ex­pan­sion of an ex­ist­ing one: the di­rec­tor of the Depart­ment of Health, the state fire mar­shal, and two mem­bers of the pub­lic. The elected chief ex­ec­u­tive or town coun­cil pres­i­dent of the host com­mu­nity would ap­point the mem­bers of the pub­lic, one of whom must be a res­i­dent of the host com­mu­nity and the other of whom

would rep­re­sent the com­mu­nity’s busi­nesses.

The bill would re­quire any ap­pli­ca­tion placed on the docket to have been deemed com­plete be­fore the panel could com­mence a hear­ing that could lead to the is­suance of a per­mit. It would also al­low for the sus­pen­sion of the process for 60 days if the ap­pli­cant fails to pro­vide state agen­cies with the in­for­ma­tion they need to is­sue nec­es­sary ad­vi­sory opin­ions, and man­date the de­nial of the ap­pli­ca­tion if the in­for­ma­tion is still not pro­vided at the end of those 60 days. Fail­ure or re­fusal to pro­vide any in­for­ma­tion re­quested by the EFSB would also be grounds for de­nial. Sev­eral state and mu­nic­i­pal agen­cies have been un­able to pro­vide com­plete ad­vi­sory opin­ions for the In­ven­ergy pro­posal due to a lack of in­for­ma­tion from the com­pany.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the bill would pro­vide cit­i­zens with a le­gal coun­sel em­pow­ered to rep­re­sent the gen­eral pub­lic in seek­ing to pro­tect the qual­ity of the en­vi­ron­ment, in­clud­ing ad­vo­cat­ing for “en­vi­ron­men­tal jus­tice” through­out the process. The pub­lic coun­sel would be ap­pointed by the at­tor­ney gen­eral, with the cost of his or her fees to be paid by the ap­pli­cant through the board’s as­sess­ment process.

The bill would sig­nif­i­cantly strengthen pro­tec­tions for host com­mu­ni­ties, in part, by pro­vid­ing them with au­to­matic “in­ter­venor sta­tus” in hear­ings on en­ergy con­struc­tion pro­pos­als within their borders. As part of the process, ap­pli­cants would be re­quired to in­clude in the ap­pli­ca­tion a de­tailed de­scrip­tion of the pro­posal’s ac­cess to all util­i­ties, in­clud­ing wa­ter, sewer, elec­tric and gas. Host com­mu­ni­ties would sub­mit a re­port de­tail­ing the pro­posal’s con­sis­tency with all lo­cal or­di­nances, reg­u­la­tions and stan­dards, and the sit­ing board would seek ad­vi­sory opin­ions from its zon­ing, plan­ning, and build­ing de­part­ments.

The bill would make the ap­pli­cant re­spon­si­ble for pay­ing the cost of the host com­mu­ni­ties’ par­tic­i­pa­tion in the process.

The EFSB would also be re­quired to con­sider any town or city coun­cil res­o­lu­tion re­gard­ing the ap­pli­ca­tion. The over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of the leg­isla­tive pan­els in the state passed res­o­lu­tions op­pos­ing the Clear River En­ergy Cen­ter, but the EFSB deemed them moot from an ev­i­den­tiary stand­point.

In the case of a host com­mu­nity that al­ready is host to an­other fos­sil fuel power plant of 250 megawatts or more (as Burrillville is, since it al­ready hosts the 560 megawatt Ocean State Power plant), the leg­is­la­tion re­quires the board to abide by that town or city coun­cil’s wishes, un­less the board is pre­sented with “clear and con­vinc­ing ev­i­dence” thatm the ex­ist­ing fa­cil­ity fails to meet the stan­dard.

The leg­is­la­tion also adds a re­quire­ment that the ap­pli­cant in­clude “a de­tailed and spe­cific state­ment as to the ef­fects the proposed fa­cil­ity would have on them abil­ity of the state to meet its car­bon-emis­sions reduction goals, and pro­hibits the sit­ing board from ap­prov­ing the project un­less it has shown it won’t pre­vent thet state from reach­ing that goal.p

Cospon­sors of the bill in­clude Rep. Brian C. New­berry (R-Dist. 48, North Smith­field, Burrillville), House En­vi­ron­ment and Nat­u­ral Re­sources Com­mit­tee Chair­man Arthur Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston), Rep. Justin K. Price (R-Dist. 39, Rich­mond, Hop­kin­ton, Ex­eter) and Rep. Deb­o­rah Rug­giero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Mid­dle­town).

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