Wednesday night’s Burrillville Town Council meeting lasted over three full hours, and though the council considered other business, the majority of the discussion concerned Invenergy’s proposed fracked gas and oil burning power plant. Anticipating a larger than usual presence at the meeting, the Town Council wisely moved the session to the Burrillvile High School, with its spacious auditorium. Oddly though, the meeting was scheduled for the school’s media center, which did not have nearly enough seating or microphones set up for people to hear.
Councillor David Place entered the auditorium, (which was set up with microphones and seating for the Town Council meeting) and marched everyone to the media center, only to have the meeting start with a motion to move the meeting back to the auditorium.
It was a poor way to start what promised to be a contentious meeting.
After getting the formalities of the Pledge of Allegiance out of the way, Council President John Pacheco III called for public comment. Attendees were warned that during public comment, the Town Council would only be allowed to listen, not comment or answer questions. In all, 23 people spoke during this time, all but one in opposition to the Power Plant. The one speaker who did not speak against the power plant merely wanted to remind everyone of the upcoming Burrillville Earth Day clean-up. (I’ve moved the 22 speakers to the end of this post.)
After conducting other town business, (not included here) the council got around to Agenda item 16-104. Town Councillor Kimberly Brissette Brown suggested that the Council hold a series of community workshops to allow the public to interact with town council members to learn more about the proposed power plant in an unofficial, less structured way. I’m not sure how unstructured and unofficial meetings between the public and town council members, outside properly held town council meetings is not an end run around the open meetings law, but we’ll see how this plays out.
Next up was Kathy Martley, of BASE (Burrillville Against Spectra Expansion), who has been fighting the fracked gas infrastructure in her town for two years. Martley asked a series of questions as to how the town council will deal with Invenergy, yet instead of answering directly, council members became defensive and even combative. Town Solicitor Oleg Nikolyszyn explained that the Town Council is powerless to stop the plant from being built.
Martley asked the Town Council to pass a resolution unequivocally opposing the plant, similar to the resolution passed by the Providence City Council regarding the liquefaction facility at Field’s Point. Council President Pacheco replied that it “would be very irresponsible to issue that kind of a statement.” He insisted that the council must “remain neutral” because “we appoint the zoning board, we appoint the planning department and no way in hell can we ever present information in fact that is not tainted and unbiased.”
Burrillville resident Paul Lefebvre asked “Was [State Representative] Cale Keable lying when he said you have to stop the tax deal?”
According to Martley, Cale Keable said that the Town Council should reject any tax deals with Invenergy as a way to potentially stop the plant from being built. (See a full examination of that idea here.)
“Cale has a different job than we do,” answer Pacheco, adding that he admires the statement Keable put out with State Senator Paul Fogarty opposing the power plant.
After this heated exchange, Paul Roselli of the Burrillville Land Trust asked a series of questions and made a number of requests for answers regarding the ecological impacts of the proposed power plant. Roselli seemed to irritate the council with his questions and points, stirring Nikolyszyn to insist that the experts hired by the Town will be on hand in two weeks to educate the EFSB, (Energy Facilities Siting Board, the body with the sole discretion to approve the power plant) and the public. “That’s the beginning of this process,” said Nikolyszyn, not realizing, I suppose, that it’s the process and the seeming inevitability of the power plant that most disturbs the residents of Burrillville.
Burrillville 06 Secret negotiations
Burrillville 07 Squeaky
Burrillville 08 Robin Woods
Burrillville 09 Not on the Agenda
Burrillville 10 Loraine
Burrillville 11 End
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