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RI lawmakers fear Invenergy gas project will lower property values

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RI lawmakers fear Invenergy gas project will lower property values

TwoRhode Island lawmakers — fearing health risks and lower property values — haveannounced their"unequivocal opposition" to the construction of 's proposed 900-MW,natural gas-powered ClearRiver Energy Center in the "idyllic village of Pascoag"in Burrillville, R.I.

StateSen. Paul Fogarty and State Rep. Cale Keable, who both represent theBurrillville area of northwest Rhode Island, sent a April 7, following discussionswith constituents, to the state Energy Facilities Siting Board voicing theiropposition to the proposed $700 million combined-cycle project. Invenergysubmitted a permit application Oct. 29, 2015, to build the plant, having firstannounced the projectAug. 4.

"There is a proven need for the Clear River EnergyCenter and that is why the ISONew England selected it in the last auction," Invenergy'sdirector of business development, John Niland, said in a statement. "Partof that need is due to New England's potential looming energy shortage, withnearly 10,000 megawatts expected to come off the grid in the coming decade.It's clear that renewable energy sources alone cannot meet that need."

Thelegislators said in the letter that their communities are already home toenergy infrastructure and should not accommodate more. "Burrillvillealready hosts a fossil fuel burning power plant and has done so for over twodecades," they said. "Siting a second power plant in the same towndoes not comport with any rational notion of fairness. More importantly, havingtwo power plants within five miles of one another raises serious concernsregarding cumulative negative health effects."

Theletter adds that the presence of a natural gas pipeline compression station hasalready done enough harm and that the construction of another plant, along withthe traffic it would bring, would do further damage to the local naturalscenery and property values.

"Theseresidents have sacrificed enough of the quiet enjoyment of their homes. No moreshould be asked of them. We certainly should not ask them to suffer the loss inmarket value to their homes that the siting of this power plant wouldentail," said the lawmakers.

Inaddition, the legislators oppose locating a natural gas plant near a hospitalin case of a "catastrophe" and fear the hospital's water supply fromWallum Lake could become contaminated from the plant as well. They also notedthat the fossil fuel-powered project "likely" violates the ResilientRhode Island Act of 2014's mandate to cut statewide greenhouse gas emissions by10% below 1990 levels by 2020, 45% by 2035 and 80% by 2050.

Nilandsaid the Clear River plant would draw water from a long-contaminated well ownedby Pascoag's utility that the company would clean up first. "We'llbe the only user of that well, and won't impact the rest of the town's watersupply in any way," he said.

The Resilient Rhode Island Act, Niland said, obligates thestate to coordinate with the region to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and doesnot set any specific emissions limits for individual energy projects. The ClearRiver Energy Center actually will support the goals of the law by reducingemissions and helping the state meet its energy needs, he said. "It willbe among the cleanest and most efficient power plants of its kind in thecountry and will reduce overall emissions by displacing older, more pollutingplants. The project will also facilitate the integration of more renewablesinto New England's grid by providing highly flexible and readily availablepower when renewable sources aren't available."

InJanuary, the regional environmental group the Conservation Law Foundationannounced itsopposition to the plant, saying Invenergy's application to the siting board wasincomplete.