The Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) heard three motions this morning on Invenergy‘s $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant planned for Burrillville. The first motion came from Michael McElroy, the attorney for Burrillville, asking for a 45-day delay in the proceedings as the town examined the new water plan submitted by Invenergy to the EFSB. The new plan entails trucking water to Burrillville from Johnston to cool the power plant’s turbines. Johnston buys its water from the Providence Water Supply Board (PWSB) and plans to sell to Invenergy at retail.
In the end, the EFSB denied Burrillville’s motion for a 45-day delay and held off deciding on the two motions to dismiss until a hearing to be held on February 16.
The first motion was denied summarily, without allowing McElroy an opportunity to argue his case to the board. It happened so fast it was difficult to follow. Jerry Elmer, a lawyer with the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) had to ask Margaret Curran, chair of the EFSB, to clarify what had happened and to make sure just the one motion had been dismissed. It was good that he did too, as the room full of people who were there to watch were having great difficulty hearing the proceedings as lawyers and board members mumbled through underpowered microphones and the air conditioner rumbled noisily.
See: Burrillville requests 45-day postponement on power plant hearing for more on this motion.
Here are the four videos from the motion to suspend part of the hearing. The second and third video are of a disruption from the Raging Grannies, who rose and sang “We Shall Overcome” until asked to leave by a police officer.
Curran and board member Janet Coit were part way through explaining why Burrillville’s second motion, a motion to dismiss Invenergy’s application, was also going to be denied when McElroy interrupted and asked why the hearing wasn’t allowing anyone to be heard.
“I’m going to object to the way this has been procedurally handled so far,” said McElroy, “This was noted as a hearing. I assumed that oral argument was going to be taken on the motions and then you were going to consider the motions either afterward or at a later open meeting. So far you have already voted to deny the first motion without hearing any oral argument whatsoever, an apparent violation of the notice that there was to be a hearing. And two of you have already indicated that you are prepared to deny the second motion, my motion to dismiss, again without hearing any oral argument.
“It’s a very strange way to conduct a hearing.”
“I believe that was a procedural ruling and does not need to be heard,” said Curran.
“So is it your ruling that I will not be heard on my motion to postpone?” asked McElroy.
“Yes,” said Curran.
Almost reluctantly, McElroy was allowed to make his case on his motion to dismiss, but with Curran and Coit already announcing their decision on the motion beforehand, it seemed a moot point.
See: Citing problems with Invenergy’s water plan, Burrillville motions to dismiss power plant application for more on this motion.
However, when all the lawyers had their say, and it came time to move onto the last motion to be considered Coit and Curran declined to hold a vote. Had McElroy’s arguments made a dent in the EFSB members’ resolve to dismiss the motion? Not likely. Note that Invenergy’s lawyer, Alan Shoer of Adler, Pollock and Sheehan is the one asking about the missing vote. He would not have asked for a vote if he thought the ruling would go against him.
More likely Curran and Coit realized that taking a couple of weeks to render a decision would give the appearance that they had fairly considered McElroy’s motion when in fact their minds had been made up all along.
Here are all seven videos covering the second motion, Burrillville’s motion to dismiss.
The last motion to be heard was CLF’s motion to dismiss, argued by Max Greene. The CLF’s argument is that Invenergy’s application is not complete, and that Invenergy has not complied with requests from various boards and agencies to provide information needed to make their reports.
See: CLF files motion to dismiss Invenergy’s application for more on this motion.
Perhaps the most interesting revelation made during the various arguments from the many lawyers in response to the CLF’s motion and questions from the EFSB members was when Dan Marcaccio, a lawyer with the Office of Energy Resources (OER), a Rhode Island state agency, threw his support behind Invenergy’s counter argument.
Alan Shoer had just finished explaining that Invenergy, in his opinion, had answered all questions posed to it by the various boards assigned to render advisory opinions on the project. To help bolster Shoer’s case, Marcaccio said that OER was one of the agencies tasked with writing an advisory opinion and that they were very into the “process.”
“We had no issues with Invenergy as far as requesting information and gathering information,” said Marcaccio. “We got all the necessary information.”
That’s your tax dollars, working against you.
Coit also made some interesting observations about advisory opinions. Since the board can “accept, revise or reject” advisory opinions, why should holes in them matter? This goes back to something said very early in this process by McElroy. “Essentially our advisory opinion means nothing. It’s simply an advisory opinion. The EFSB can take it, they can take it in part, or they can reject it.”
It is apparent that these advisory opinions are little more than busy work, assigned to a community to give the false sense that they are involved in some sort of fair process when, in fact, they are not. The EFSB will do what it was created to do: site a power plant wherever a big, powerful company tell them thy want to build one.
One surprising addition to the roster of lawyers joining Invenergy at the hearing was State Senator William Conley. Conley was there in his capacity as the Johnston Town Solicitor. Readers may remember last year when Conley was one of the senators on the Senate Judiciary committee ripping into Representative Cale Keable and Senator Paul Fogarty‘s bill to allow Burrillville voters the ability to approve or reject any tax agreements the Burrillville Town Council negotiated with Invenergy.
Conley voted against that bill, and lost his endorsement from the Sierra Club. His presence at the meeting shows how small Rhode Island is and how right the Siera Club was in revoking their endorsement.
Here are all five videos covering the third motion, CLF’s motion to dismiss.