Update II: Here’s the event of Facebook for the July 13 meeting.
Update I: Joseph Martella, senior engineer in the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management Office of Waste Management responds:
National Grid’s Notice for the Public Meeting is not about the Public Involvement Plan (PIP). There is no regulatory requirement for a meeting on the PIP. National Grid’s notice is about the Public Meeting for the Short Term Response Action Plan (STRAP) for the proposed Liquefaction Project and the STRAP Addendum for the Holcim Driveway. Both documents are posted on the RIDEM web page for the site http://www.dem.ri.gov/
programs/wastemanagement/site- remediation/Providence-Gas-Co. php . The notice was issued based on the requirements of the Remediation Regulations and the PIP. The Public Comment Period for submitting written comments on technical feasibility of the STRAP and STRAP Addendum is ongoing now, and will extend until 10 business days following the 7-13-17 Public Meeting. The Department did have conversations with National Grid following Grid’s 6-9-17 response to the Department’s comments on the draft PIP. Following the response to comments and the review of the revised PIP (which incorporated the responses) the Department notified Grid verbally that it was satisfied with the revised PIP so that Grid could schedule the Public Meeting. Internal review of the draft PIP Approval Letter required a few extra days before the final PIP Approval Letter was issued and posted to the site web page. I hope this answers your questions.
Some residents of the south side of Providence, in the vicinity of the Port of Providence, have expressed concerns over National Grid’s plan to hold an important meeting pertaining to the proposed liquefaction project at the Providence Public Safety Complex. In the past, National Grid has had a heavy police presence when dealing with this community, such as an event they held two years ago inside the Juanita Sanchez Educational Complex where helmet wearing motorcycle officers were used as security. Holding the meeting inside the police station seems to many to be an escalation of racialized policing on the part of National Grid.
Community members concerned about their documentation status, minor warrants or who feel that the police will profile them because of their race or religion, might not want to join a meeting inside a police station, no matter how concerned they may be about their health and the environment.
Another concern is that the Providence Public Safety Complex is not in the affected community. “We will not be intimidated,” said Mónica Huertas from the No LNG in PVD, “Regardless of the fact that this is an intimidation tactic, we want this public hearing to be in our own community. It needs to be in a place that is accessible to everyone who is affected.”
David Graves, spokesperson for National Grid, said, “The facility itself is ideal for what we’re trying to do. We’ve used that public safety complex in the past, we’ve had public meetings there and hearings on our rate issues and other topics. It’s very convenient and it’s a good location.”
As for the concerns expressed to me by the community, “When we have a meeting we always have a police presence. So if [there are people whose] intent is to disrupt the meeting in any way, it’s irrelevant where it’s going to be held because they will be asked to leave the meeting if their intent is to disrupt it.
“I can’t speak for someone’s criminal record or lack of documentation. The venue was chosen because of it’s easy access from the area around the Fields Point Facility, and it’s a public building. We’ve used it in the past and we’ve never had issues in the past. So I don’t know why we’d have issues with it now.
“We’ve had open meetings there in the past and nothing like this has been an issue. We don’t anticipate it should be an issue now either.”
“Understand that this is strictly on environmental [concerns due to soil remediation]. This has nothing to do with the pros and cons of fossil fuel or of LNG or the installation of liquefaction equipment,” said Graves. “It really is to explain the processes to be used on the environmental aspects related to that facility and to that property. That’s what it’s all about. It’s not the forum to discuss the pros and cons of fossil fuel. We’re going to keep the meeting very tightly focused on that.”
I asked if it’s possible to separate remediation of the soil and the building of a road on land heavily contaminated from years of use by the fossil fuel industry from the subject of fossil fuels and the proposed liquefaction facility.
“Yes,” said Graves, “because we’ve had meetings related directly to the liquefaction process in the past, so that issue’s been covered. This is a separate issue. We’re dedicating the meeting to this purpose and that’s what it’s all about.
“It has nothing to do with fossil fuel and nothing to do with the liquefaction equipment.”
However, the notice from National Grid says that the meeting concerns “a proposed Short Term Response Action Plan (STRAP) for soil and groundwater management activities during the construction of the Fields Point Liquefaction Project.”
Another concern for affected residents is the timing around how this meeting was announced. The date on the flyer announcing the meeting is June 23, 2017. The flyer clearly states that the soil remediation plan (STRAP) will be in accordance with the Public Involvement Plan (PIP) approved by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM). However, the letter officially announcing the approval of the PIP was not made public until June 28. Why did National Grid get advanced notice of this approval?
National Grid did not respond to a request for comment on this.
The EJLRI has been asking for a public involvement plan that designates the affected area as an “Environmental Justice Focus Area.” National Grid’s proposal and the approved PIP maintain that environmental justice definitions do not apply. A comment left on the RIDEM website concerning National Grid’s plan points out that:
“For one example of justification that the site does indeed fall within RIDEM’s definition of an EJ Focus Area, please see attached EJSCREEN report of the 0.5 mile radius surrounding 642 Allens Ave. On the second page you can see that the “minority population” in the immediate area is in the 87th percentile for the state and the low-income population is the 86th percentile – both of which meet the definition of being within the highest 15 percent in the state. For further justification, see the attached comment letter submitted by EJLRI to FERC, which starting on page 3 addresses National Grid’s false claim that the site is not in an environmental justice community. The fact that the immediate area directly adjacent to the property isn’t residential doesn’t preclude this from being an EJ focus area concern. In fact, the combined density of multiple polluting industrial facilities along the fenceline of the neighborhoods of Washington Park and South Providence IS the underlying environmental justice concern.”
Unfortunately this comment was logged after the surprise announcement of a PIP that National Grid knew about nearly a week before the public.