Gina Rodríguez put National Grid on notice.
“So get ready, because we are ready. We know that this is a David and Goliath fight,” said the Washington Park resident, mother and leader in the No LNG in PVD coalition. “We have been at it for over a year. We will push you tooth and nail, permit by permit, meeting by meeting, hour by hour, day by day. We are not backing down. You have not seen loud or disruptive yet. Try it. Try to permit it. Try it. Try it.”
Residents of Washington Park and others concerned about the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure at the National Grid facility in the Port of Providence converged on the Providence Public Safety Complex last night to say “No!” to a proposed $180 million liquefaction plant. Though Amy Willoughby, lead environmental scientist for National Grid insisted that the meeting was being held only to discuss soil remediation and the building of two roads, members of No LNG in PVD and the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island (EJLeague) countered that the current project is merely a small part of a larger plan.
Indeed, at several times Willoughby herself referred to the segment of construction and remediation as the “Liquefaction Project.” Ultimately, maintain opponents to National Grid’s expansion of fossil fuels, the company plans to build an LNG export terminal in the Port of Providence. Willoughby denied this.
In order to complete the project, whatever its final form, the soil in the area must be remediated and capped. This will entail digging up toxic soil. National Grid maintains that the soil presents “no threat to human health or the environment” but admit that testing shows that “certain compounds exceed some RIDEM (Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management) limits.”
What kind of “compounds” are we taling about? No LNG in PVD says the site has very high levels of “Cyanide, Arsenic, Lead, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (TPHs), and LNAPLs.”
No one who lives in the affected area spoke in favor of National Grid’s proposal. Nearly everyone took issue with the way in which the company has proceeded to advance the project. People complained about everything from the way in which the public was notified about the project and the meeting to the very idea of holding the meeting inside a police station.
“By holding [this meeting] in a police station, you’re contributing to making America into a police state,” said Joey Dizoglio, prefacing his comment questions to National Grid.
Nineteen people spoke out against the project at the meeting. National Grid refused to answer questions about any aspect of the project beyond soil remediation and the two roads. Eventually Willoughby was greeted by groans and annoyed laughs when she refused to answer questions National Grid deemed off topic. I should note here that fossil fuel companies across the country routinely segment their projects into tiny chunks so that no one piece will run afoul of safety or environmental regulations, whereas the if the project were presented as a whole, it would never receive approval. Rules against “impermissible segmentation” are rarely enforced even when they exist.
Present in the audience was Joseph Martella, senior engineer in the RIDEM Office of Waste Management, furiously taking notes. RIDEM also received criticism from residents for not advocating for Rhode Ilsanders over the concerns of a multi-billion dollar multi-national corporation.
Overshadowing everything at the meeting was the enormous gas pipeline explosion that happened on National Grid property along Allens Avenue back in March. that accident spewed two pounds of carcinogenic PCBs into the air and millions of gallons of natural gas. Highways were blocked and area residents were torn between sheltering in place or evacuating the area..
Though it is unfair to pick a favorite speaker from among the many who spoke last night, Gina Rodríguez, a Washington Park resident, mother and leader in the No LNG in PVD coalition received a standing ovation for her smart, passionate defense of her community.
This is the presentation of Amy Willoughby is the lead environmental scientist for National Grid.
Here’s every other speaker at the event:
Monica Huertas, Washington Park resident and No LNG in PVD campaign coordinator.
David Veliz, co-chair of the environmental justice committee for the Rhode Island Serra Club and organizer for the Childhood Lead Action Project.
Christina Cabrera from the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island
Rhode Island State Senator Jeanine Calkin (Democrat, District 30, Warwick)
Robert Malin from Fossil Free Rhode Island