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Steve Ahlquist is an award-winning journalist, writer, artist and founding member of the Humanists of Rhode Island, a non-profit group dedicated to reason, compassion, optimism, courage and action. The views expressed are his own and not necessarily those of any organization of which he is a member.

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"We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” - Elie Weisel

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." - Desmond Tutu

"There comes a time when neutrality and laying low become dishonorable. If you’re not in revolt, you’re in cahoots. When this period and your name are mentioned, decades hence, your grandkids will look away in shame." - David Brooks

4 responses to “No LNG in PVD annoyed by National Grid’s ‘science fair’ style public comment meeting”

  1. salgal

    I was one of the interviewees. I was struck by the resemblance of the whole sham to a Monty Python sketch.

    1. DEM was the obedient and somewhat fearful child. National Grid (NG), as at the first meeting at the Providence Public Safety Complex, also known at the Police Station, ran the show and filled the room with staffers, some of whom appeared medicated.

    2. The physical setup was anything but welcoming. If one decided to sign-up to be interviewed at a table with DEM, National Grid, and the stenographer, the heavy duty in-window air conditioner was blowing directly and loudly on said person only. How militaristic in a CIA kind of way. The science fair board were each attended by a NG employee who did their best to smile without a break while defending NG and patronizing the civilians with questions. One guy seemed to wing it telling one questioner that the NG site for remediation/LNG facility was 20′ above sea level and telling me when I asked during my allotted interview time that it was 9-11′ feet above.

    3. This was supposed to be a community meeting. It was nothing of the sort.

    4.I asked DEM if the soil had ever been remediated, since 1910. The answer, “No”. So toxic waste on top of toxic waste on top of toxic waste…..Yeah, what could go wrong.

    5. There is a rather large disconnect between DEM policy and what has actually transpired at both meetings regarding meeting consideration, as I’ve quoted below.

    6. I wonder why Martello is presenting himself as a clueless scared rabbit? He’s a state employee after all. Too bad DEM has been seemingly incapable or unwilling to follow their own guidelines and to let a seemingly ruthless corporation marginalize the agency charged with protecting or environment and the people living in said environment.

    I’m quoting below from DEM’s Policy for Considering Environmental Justice in the Review of Investigation and Remediation of Contaminated Properties. 6/29/09

    Many of the impacted sites are located in the urban centers of the state. In many cases, low income and minority populations live in the communities around the sites. These populations have been subject to many historical inequities. Addressing these inequities and providing a fair, effective process for future involvement in site remediation projects is a main premise of environmental justice.

    DEM defines public participation as people getting timely and accurate information, being heard at meaningful times, and if interested, contributing to the development of workable solutions.

    Community meetings will be organized to be accessible to those who wish to attend (considering public transportation, access for disabled, and potentially child care needs when identified as an issue by potential participants.) All meetings will be held at a convenient time, likely after working hours at a community center near the site. An atmosphere of “equal participation” among all involved should be established-avoiding panels, head tables, or auditorium presentations. Translation assistance for non-English speakers will be available when appropriate.

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  2. Greg Gerritt

    The meeting as described in this article reminds me of the dog and pony show I went to with the Navy recently,. They do not want to public to hear how other members of the public think the projects are truly evil and will do almost anything to avoid having to answer direct public questions. DEM is acting like a criminal in this case and aiding and abetting criminal behavior so as to ease the poisoning of our communities.

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  3. Duane Clinker

    These type of “hearings” are not hearings at all. They divide the public into scattered individuals. They do not give the public gathered together as community a chance to hear and comment on the debate together. They propagandize on behalf of the monied interests (who have the money) for the charts and paid staff, etc.

    Hearings of this type are, at their core, anti-democratic in what they intend. They are designed to gather names and minutes they can use in their application for their project without have an old-fashioned town-meeting type hearing.

    I am ashamed and saddened to learn that my former church would even make space for an event like this. I rather imagine it was presented to them by DEM or National Grid as a positive and democratic community meeting. But more thinking and investigation should have been done by the OTC. Such events that deny the public a chance to actually hear its own voice in the debate, frustrates in its ability to discuss and debate together, and limits their ability to organize for their own protection.

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  4. m. bessette

    If there’s a takeaway from this overly-administered, PR-style meeting it’s that it faithfully reflects the institutional impediments precluding change for the better. RI DEM’s regulatory process, like nearly every state-environmental agency’s, is predicated on perpetuating the hydrocarbon-capitalist paradigm, first and foremost. Abstract from Mr. Martello’s remarks and you hear, ‘The purpose of cleaning up a contaminated site is so that another round of contamination can take place.’ This is why defensive posturing (jurisdictional boundaries, delimited authority, etc.) shouldn’t sound all that peculiar since it merely derives from the way that public health and the common good aren’t, in essence, DEM’s guiding principles. And this goes ditto for that quasi-governmental agency, FERC, which is outstandingly efficient at doing the bidding of big energy.

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