Edit: CLF senior attorney Jerry Elmer sent the following clarification after this piece was published:
“One thing to clarify,” writes Elmer, “Your headline says, “Providence City Council will consider joining CLF lawsuit against Invenergy, Johnston.” As you make clear later on in the article, Providence (and the other cities, towns, and water districts being newly added to the case) will not get to decide whether or not they want to be added to this lawsuit. They are being added to the lawsuit. The Court ordered CLF to add them, and CLF is doing that, in a newly Amended Complaint that CLF will file with the Court on Wednesday of this week. What Providence (and the other cities, towns, and water districts that are being added can consider doing is re-aligning as plaintiffs.”
Providence City Councilor Seth Yurdin (Ward 1) wants the city to fight the sale of Providence water to Invenergy, the company that wants to build a $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant in Burrillville.
“The proposed gas-fired power plant is a serious threat to local Rhode Island communities and our climate. The Providence Water Supply Board needs to join the Conservation Law Foundation‘s lawsuit and work to prevent the improper resale of water for use in this harmful project.,” said Providence City Councilor Seth Yurdin (Ward 1) about his resolution, being introduced tonight.
The resolution seeks to realign the positions of the City of Providence and the Providence Water Supply Board (PWSB) from defendants to plaintiffs in the case of Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) v Clear River Energy and the Town of Johnston.
In early January, the Johnston Town Council voted unanimously to resell water purchased from Providence to Invenergy. The lawsuit from CLF maintains that the City of Providence is under no obligation to sell water to the Town of Johnston for resale to Invenergy, under a plain reading of the law.
“In June, the Superior Court ordered CLF to add 20 cities, towns, and water districts that also get water from the Providence Water Supply Board to this lawsuit,” said Jerry Elmer, senior attorney at CLF, “The Court’s reasoning was that these other municipalities could be affected by the outcome of this case, so they should have an opportunity to be part of the case (and have their voices and legal arguments heard). As a technical legal matter, CLF has to add these new parties as Defendants. However, some of the newly added Defendants may want to ask the Court to re-align them as Plaintiffs. Newly added Defendants would ask the Court to re-align them as Plaintiffs if their positions in the lawsuit agreed with CLF – that is that the Invenergy power plant should not be built, and that the water contract between Invenergy and Johnston is illegal. The Providence City Council has already passed a resolution opposing construction of Invenergy’s proposed diesel oil and fracked-gas power plant. If Providence were to ask the Court to re-align it as a Plaintiff, that request would be fully consistent with Providence’s previous public position.”
Yurdin’s proposed resolution notes that in February, the Providence City Council passed and Mayor Jorge Elorza approved a resolution opposing the proposed power plant, “expressing serious concern over the use of water from PWSB.” That resolution further requested that City Solicitor Jeffrey Dana explore legal options to prevent the resale and use of PWSB water by Invenergy.
As for the resolution’s prospects, Councillor Yurdin said, “I hope the council will pass the resolution tonight.”
Here’s the full text of the resolution:
City of Providence
STATE OF RHODE ISLAND AND PROVIDENCE PLANTATIONS
RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL
WHEREAS, On October 29, 2015 Invenergy Thermal Development LLC filed an application to Construct the Clear River Energy Center Power Plant (CREC) in Burrillville, RI with the Rhode Island Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB); and
WHEREAS, In the months after the filing of that application, the Town of Burrillville conducted extensive study of the application with and through credentialed professionals, including studies of noise, water, traffic and air quality, among others; and
WHEREAS, After considering expert testimony and conducting thorough public hearing the Burrillville Planning Board and Zoning Board of Review have advised the EFSB that Burrillville, RI is not a suitable site for the Clear River Energy Center; and
The Burrillville Building Inspector and Burrillville Tax Assessor have also submitted advisory opinions to the EFSB expressing the impact the proposed Clear River Energy Center would have on the Town of Burrillville; and
WHEREAS, Numerous cities and towns in Rhode Island, including the City of Providence, have passed resolutions opposing the siting of an Invenergy power plant in the Town of Burrillville; and
WHEREAS, According to the Blackstone River Watershed Council, “emissions from the power plant, in particular methane and carbon dioxide, would affect a 30-mile area in the northwest corner of Rhode Island”; and
WHEREAS, Particulate matter would “diminish air quality, local rivers and watersheds would be stressed, additional deliveries of chemicals by large commercial vehicles would put residents at risk, noise pollution would increase and the biodiversity impacts and loss of wildlife habitats within the shared watershed would harm the regional environment,” according to Burrillville Conservation Chairman, Kevin Cleary; and
WHEREAS, During the past year, many citizens of Rhode Island, as well as our neighboring communities in Massachusetts and Connecticut, have expressed strong opposition to the siting of the Clear River Energy Center for reasons including the negative impacts on property, environment, traffic, public health, public safety, and water; and
WHEREAS, The CREC power plant in Burrillville would prevent Rhode Island from meeting the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions set by the 2014 Resilient Rhode Island Act; and
WHEREAS, Invenergy’s efforts to obtain the water needed for the power plant met resistance and opposition for many months, with the Pascoag Utility District, the Harrisville Fire District, and the City of Woonsocket rejecting proposals to provide water for the power plant; and
WHEREAS, On January 10th, the Town of Johnston approved a 20-year contract selling Invenergy water for the CREC power plant; and
WHEREAS, The Providence Water Supply Board (PWSB) is the sole supplier of water to the Town of Johnston; and
WHEREAS, The agreement between the Town of Johnston and Invenergy obligates resources owned by the people of Providence without them having a choice or say in the matter; and
WHEREAS, On March 7th, 2017, the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) filed a lawsuit in Rhode Island Superior Court contending that the Town of Johnston has no legal basis for reselling water bought from PWSB to Invenergy for use at their proposed plant; and
WHEREAS, According to many familiar with the lawsuit, the City of Providence and the PWSB are among the many “indispensable parties” to be named as defendants in CLF’s lawsuit before the end of this month; and
WHEREAS, In situations such as this, it is perfectly legal and ethical for newly added parties to request that the court re-align their position in the lawsuit from defendant to plaintiff to accurately reflect the true positions advocated by the parties; and
WHEREAS, In February, the City Council passed and the Mayor approved Resolution #60 opposing the CREC power plant in Burrillville, expressing serious concern over the use of water from PWSB for the CREC power plant, and requesting the City Solicitor explore legal options to prevent the resale and use of PWSB water at the CREC power plant; and
WHEREAS, Realigning from defendant to plaintiff in the aforementioned lawsuit would accurately reflect the positions of both the City of Providence and the PWSB; and
WHEREAS, Moreover, re-aligning as plaintiffs would help protect the people of Providence from having their public resources illegally and improperly resold to the CREC power plant.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, That the City Council of the City of Providence strongly urges and respectfully request that, when the City of Providence and the Providence Water Supply Board are named as defendants in the case of Conservation Law Foundation, Inc. v. Clear River Energy, LLC and Town of Johnston, RI, the City of Providence and the Providence Water Supply Board ask the Superior Court to realign their positions from defendants to plaintiffs.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That, upon passage, copies of this resolution be sent to the Mayor and the City Solicitor, as well as the Town Manager of the Town of Burillville.