After a meeting with Governor Gina Raimondo, Rep. Cale Keable and Sen. Paul Fogarty introduced legislation that would give residents in Burrillville the ability to vote on “any tax agreement negotiated between the Burrillville Town Council and the developers of a proposed power plant in town be subject to voter approval.” Keable and Fogarty represent voters in Burrillville.
On Facebook, Keable described Raimondo as “gracious.” According to Keable, “We re-iterated the points in our letter to the [Energy Facilities] Siting Board (EFSB) and asked her to use the power of her office to stop the power plant. She listened to each of our concerns and stated that she is currently planning a meeting in Burrillville to hear directly from the people. She asked good questions about our concerns and showed an understanding of the issues. I came away from the meeting believing that she has real concerns about this project’s impact on water, children and the environment.”
Keable and Fogarty also gave the Governor a pile of emails, petitions and correspondence from Burrillville residents opposed to the power plant, as well as a bumper sticker, tee shirt and a lawn sign. (see picture)
In addition to allowing Burrillville residents the ability to vote on tax treaties negotiated by the Town Council, the legislation also makes changes to the EFSB. The number of seats on the board would be increased from three to nine members, including the chairperson of the Commerce Corporation (the state’s economic development agency), the general manager of the state Water Resources Board, the director of the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns, and three members of the public.
In addition, of the three members of the public, “one must be experienced in environmental issues, one in energy issues and one in labor issues,” and “None must have received a significant portion of their income in the previous two years from the developer of an energy facility or an electric, gas or oil company.”
A final feature of the bill mandates that the EFSB must take into consideration “any resolution regarding” applications for new power plants.
You can read the full press release here:
Rep. Cale P. Keable and Sen. Paul W. Fogarty are introducing legislation to require that any tax agreement negotiated between the Burrillville Town Council and the developers of a proposed power plant in town be subject to voter approval.
The legislation, which emanates from Invenergy’s pending proposal to build a 1000-megawatt, fracked gas power plant in Pascoag, was introduced in response to the frustration expressed by residents and elected officials of Burrillville and across the state regarding their lack of input into the approval process.
“The people of Burrillville are the ones who will lose our unspoiled woods and instead get pollution, risk to our water supply, traffic and noise. We deserve a say in the matter, and this is one way to provide it,” said Representative Keable (D-Dist. 47, Burrillville, Glocester).
The legislation, which was introduced in the House today and is expected to be introduced in the Senate next week, would alter an existing state law that applies only to Burrillville and was enacted in 1987 to allow the town to negotiate a tax treaty with Ocean State Power, the 560-MW power plant in Burrillville that began operating in 1990.
Representative Keable’s and Senator Fogarty’s legislation adds a clause to the law that would subject any such tax agreement to a binding referendum of town voters. If that referendum can’t be held at the same time as a regular election, the entity proposing the plant would be required to pay the town’s costs of holding it.
“The people of our districts have spoken loud and clear. However, under current law, all they can do is ask for consideration from those who get to make the decision. That’s not right, and we intend to do something about it,” said Senator Fogarty (D-Dist. 23, Glocester, Burrillville, North Smithfield). “Every single voter in Burrillville deserves the opportunity to have a real say in whether they are going to host another power plant.”
The legislation also adds to the membership of the Energy Facilities Siting Board, currently a three-member panel that includes the chairperson of the Public Utilities Commission, the director of the Department of Environmental Management and the state associate director of administration for planning. The bill adds six new members: the chairperson of the Commerce Corporation (the state’s economic development agency), the general manager of the state Water Resources Board, the director of the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns, and three members of the public. Of the members of the public, one must be experienced in environmental issues, one in energy issues and one in labor issues. None must have received a significant portion of their income in the previous two years from the developer of an energy facility or an electric, gas or oil company. The sponsors say the change would add diverse viewpoints to the board so decisions about power plant locations are made with careful consideration toward the environment and natural resources, the state’s business development strategies, the needs of cities and towns and the opinions of residents.
The bill also adds a requirement that prior to issuing any decision on an application for a power plant, the EFSB must take into consideration any resolution regarding it.