Plant Status & FAQ

Important updates and breakdown of the latest plant developments for the proposed Clear River Energy Center powerplant.  We will keep this section up-to-date with the latest status, developments, and FAQ.  Catch up on the latest information, answers to the top questions we get, and how you can still help. 

Table of Contents

Is the application for the proposed Clear River Energy Center power plant dead?

No. Rhode Island is still at risk of having the power plant approved and destroying hundreds of acres of pristine forest right next to George Washington Management Area for a massive fracked-gas and diesel oil fueled power plant that is NOT needed to keep the lights on in Rhode Island and will NOT significantly lower anyone’s electrical bills.  There have been several positive developments over the last several weeks, but the application is still in motion and being reviewed in front of the Rhode Island Energy Facility Siting Board.

Where are we in the overall process?

The application for the proposed Clear River Energy Center power plant was submitted in October 2015.  After working through the process of public testimony hearings and numerous delays due to Invenergy’s search for a water source, the proposed power plant is currently in the Final Hearing Stage of the Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB) review and approval process.  The Final Hearings cover all critical aspects of the proposed plant that need to be reviewed in order to meet the requirements for EFSB approval under Rhode Island State Law.  These hearings are grouped by subject (Need, Carbon Emissions, Environmental Impact, Biodiversity, Property Value Impact,Jobs Impact, etc.)  

Note: Hearings were suspended pending the outcome of motion before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) by ISO-NE (the not for profit independent system operator of the New England energy gird) to terminate the agreement that Invenergy had with ISO-NE due to continued delays and the inability of Invenergy’s Clear River Energy Center to be operational by their committed date. 

The latest EFSB meeting was December 5, 2018. Open motions from Invenergy and CLF were also heard at that time. (See Update on Pending Motions below). Final Hearings are now scheduled to resume on January 8, 2019 on the topics of Cost and Need and will continue through February. Visit www.keeprhodeislandbeautiful.com/meetings for a full schedule of topics by day.

Who makes the decision to approve the proposed power plant?

According to the Rhode Island Energy Facility Siting Act established by RI GL 42-98-1, the quasi-judicial three-member Energy Facility Siting Board will make the decision to approve or reject Invenergy’s application to construct the Clear River Energy Center gas and oil-fired power plant, which was filed in October of 2015. You can find more information about the EFSB and the tenants of the EFSA at: http://www.ripuc.org/efsb/FAQ.html

When will there be a final decision on the power plant?

Given the continued delays that have impacted the Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB) Final Hearing schedule, the final decision on the plant from the EFSB will not occur until early 2019. At this point, hearings will likely run until the Februrary/March 2019 time period with a decision from the EFSB following the completion of the hearings.

Will the decision of the Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB) be the final word?

No.  There are two additional permits outside the direct purview of the EFSB.  One is a permit to alter freshwater wetlands from both the Army Corp of Engineers and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RI DEM).  The other is the “Major Source of Air Pollution” permit from RI DEM as part of the Federal Clean Air Act.  The process for both those permits is still underway and public comment period has not yet  been announced for either permit. As of November, no draft permits had been issued nor were the applications deemed complete.

Now that the public comment hearings are done who fights for us against the plant?

Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) and the Town of Burrillville are the two main intervenors litigating the case before the EFSB.

Jerry Elmer is the Sr. Attorney taking lead on the Invenergy case from CLF. You can learn more about the work of Conservation Law Foundation here: www.clf.org. We strongly recommend donating to the work of CLF to support their work against the proposed CREC power plant and to protect our important natural resources here in Rhode Island and throughout New England. 

Michael R. McElroy is a partner in the the Providence, Rhode Island law firm of Schacht & McElroy representing the Town of Burrillville. You can learn more about Schacht & McElroy here www.mcelroylawoffice.com and more about the Town of Burrillville’s position and efforts here: www.burrillville.org/power-plant

There are also many things you can still do to oppose the plant and make your voice heard.  Visit the “What Can I Do” section of our website to learn more. 

What is the status of the water supply situation and the Johnston Lawsuit?

After significant difficulty in securing needed water sources for the plant, resulting in multiple delays to the project, Invenergy secured both a primary water source (the Town of Johnston RI) and a backup water source (Fall River via Benn Water Trucking Co.). However, the legitimacy of the water agreement with Johnston is being challenged in superior court by both the Town of Burrillville as well as Conservation Law Foundation. All parties agreed to a bench ruling and we are awaiting the decision from Judge Silverstein at any time. (Note: Even though Judge Silverstein retired, he kept a handful of cases which he will still be deciding). If the court rules in Invenergy’s favor, they would draw hundreds of thousands of gallons of water a year from the Scituate reservoir, where 65% of Rhode Island gets their water. If the court rules in favor of the Town of Burrillville and Conservation Law Foundation, Invenergy would lose their primary water source and have to secure an additional source to have both a primary and backup water supply.

What about the testing for an aquifer under the proposed site?

In the EFSB hearings in August, the possibility was raised that the proposed site might be above an aquifer and therefore put Burrillville groundwater supply at risk. In the hearing it was determined that Invenergy could not build the plant above an aquifer and that a survey of underground water would need to be performed before a plant could be built.  Until that point, Invenergy had not fully tested or released results for testing. As a result of that hearing, Invenergy began drill testing as part of a survey of underground water under the proposed site. It’s a rather long iterative process to get the full results.  At this point we are still awaiting results of the testing to understand if Burrillville’s water supply is at risk from the proposed plant. If the proposed site is determined to be above a ground water source it would have implications depending on the where the aquifer is. The site could be rejected altogether or alterations to the proposed locations would need to be made to avoid potential groundwater impacts.

Was Invenergy’s contract (Capacity Supply Obligation) terminated by ISO-NE. If so, how can they possibly still move forward?

Yes, in September of 2019, ISO-NE notified Invenergy of their intent to terminate their capacity supply contract. This is known as a Capacity Supply Obligation or CSO for short. ISO-NE then petitioned the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to be able to terminate their contract. Invenergy opposed the motion before FERC but FERC ruled in ISO-NE’s favor stating that they had the right to terminate based on the tariff provisions and that allowing Invenergy to maintain their CSO would harm the market. 

However, even though many analysts and publications have noted this as a “death blow” or potential end to the project due to numerous other delays and issues, this is not an automatic end to the project. This does indeed make things much more difficult for Invenergy, hurts their financial position because they will no longer receive the approximately $25 Million in annual payments, and likely hurts their position before the EFSB because the vast majority of their argument for need was based on the fact that they had received a CSO from ISO-NE. However, it does not spell an automatic end to the proposal because Invenergy has stated that they can self-fund the project and, if built, they can sell the energy on the open market and potentially apply for a CSO once operational.

Can Invenergy participate in the next Forward Capacity Auction and get a new CSO?

No, Invenergy has been ruled ineligible to participate in the upcoming February 2019 Forward Capacity Auction.  Therefore, they will not be able to attempt to sell the capacity from either of the two turbines proposed in the next auction, which locks up capacity through 2022.  While this alone does not prove there is zero need for the plant, it’s hard to accept that Invenergy’s energy is needed if they can’t even bid into the market and yet we continue to meet (and exceed) our future capacity needs.

Can’t the Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB) just reject Invenergy’s application now?

Technically, the EFSB could reject their application now for a number of reasons, but that would likely result in appeals.  The EFSB will almost assuredly continue to give Invenergy all the time they need to prove their case through the final hearings before a decision is made. While this causes the process to continue to drag on, it ultimately makes the most sense and will result in the best supportable decision given Invenergy may still appeal the final decision if the answer is no.

Why is this such a controversial project and why are so many people and organizations opposed?

Even though advertised by some as a way to address high energy prices the proposed plant WILL NOT have a significant impact on electric bills but WILL cause significant negative impacts to the enviornment, recreation, and the local community. 

  • Hundreds of acres of pristine interior forest will be destroyed right next to George Washington State Management Conservation and Recreation area (which also happens to be part of the last contiguous forest area in the NE).
  • The proposed site was previously rejected for development and deemed inappropriate due to its high biodiversity and conservation value
  • The plant will require hundreds of tanker trucks a year of oil, ammonia, and water, year-round thundering down small rural country roads, creating a safety risk, and affecting the way of life for tens of thousands of residents in numerous communities throughout Northern RI.
  • 3.6M tons of additional climate warming CO2 gas emissions will be released a year and the plant will make it impossible to meet our state’s Resilient Rhode Island emission reduction goals
  • Numerous known hazardous chemicals will be spewed from 200ft tall smoke stacks including 52 known known pollutants and 3 tons of chemicals formally classified as “hazardous pollutants.” 
  • The plant will increase New England’s long-term dependence burning fracked gas for energy and contribute to significant additional fracked-gas usage when we are already operating under known gas pipeline constraints.
  • And so much more!  Visit our website www.keeprhodeislandbeautiful/facts for our infographic with more facts, location map, opposition lists, and more.

But I heard the proposed plant will help Rhode Islanders save a lot of money on electric bills?

The proposed plant will NOT significant lower anyone’s electric bill.  According to information submitted in the application, the plant is projected to save, at best, 1-2% off the wholesale energy prices if both turbines are built.  Those calculations have been disputed by experts, including Conservation Law Foundation, but even if these savings were realized, savings of 1-2% would not have a significant impact on your electric bill.  However, there is no guarantee that even those meager projected savings would be realized by rate-payers due to the following reasons.

  • Wholesale energy prices have been trending down or holding steady for years while retail prices (the prices we actually pay) have been going up. 
  • The retail energy rate increases from National Grid over the last few years are due to unique situation from the Forward Capacity Auction in 2015 & 2016 where there was a forecasted need for capacity in the Rhode Island Zone of the ISO-NE network. Note: Capacity prices have gone down significantly in the two auctions since due to reconfiguration of the ISO zones, reduction in need, and availability of capacity due to increased renewables.  That temporary spike in 2015/2016, triggered by administrative ISO-NE pricing, actually resulted in a sky-high rate for the CSO that Invenergy held for two years until it was recently terminated by ISO-NE. Keep in mind that Invenergy sold that CSO two years in a row for over $25 Million in profit at the expense of New England Rate payers. Read more about this here: https://upriseri.com/news/energy/efsb/invenergy/2018-09-14-invenergy-profits/
  • The other factor that drives up energy prices is the high cost to procure Natural Gas during peak seasons in the winter when gas supply is constrained. While ISO-NE forecasts that we will have plenty of capacity in the upcoming winter season to meet our needs (including for extreme peak periods) they continue to warn of risks to grid reliability from the increasing reliance on Natural Gas and concerns about Natural Gas availability. Learn more about ISO-NE’s latest 2018/2019 seasonal outlook here: https://www.iso-ne.com/markets-operations/system-forecast-status/seasonal-system-outlook/
  • The price for energy prices makes up an increasingly smaller percentage of your electric bill. The higher bill prices are primarily due to a growing increase in Transmission Costs. New England has the highest Transmission Costs in the country as billions of dollars in transmission upgrade projects were passed along directly to consumers over the last several years. Click here for a report on the impact of these potentially avoidable skyrocketing transmission project costs: https://acadiacenter.org/skyrocketing-transmission-costs-and-the-need-for-reform 

Therefore, due to the combination of wholesale vs retail energy prices and the impact of skyrocketing transmission costs, there is no guarantee, and it is in fact unlikely, that those projected wholesale savings would be realized by consumers on your energy bill.  Energy reform is needed to help New Englander’s with high energy prices and it is irresponsible of any leader to point to this proposed plant as the solution for high energy bills. Keep Rhode Island Beautiful supports energy reform to help address increasing energy costs for Rhode Island citizens and business. 

If the proposed plant is going to have a negative environmental impact and not have a significant impact on our energy costs, it must be badly needed to keep the lights on then?

No. The proposed plant is NOT needed to keep the lights on in Rhode Island.  Despite the fear-mongering by those who stand to benefit from the construction of the plant, New England currently has all the energy capacity we need both now, as well as in the foreseeable future.

  • Energy Capacity is forecasted and obtained three years ahead through the forward capacity auction run by ISO-NE (ISO-NE is the not-for-profit entity that maintains the grid and the capacity market).  All energy needs (including all projected power plant retirements) are taken into consideration.  ISO-NE then holds a yearly auction to procure the needed electricity (as well as almost 2 Gigawatts of extra capacity) for three years ahead.
  • Energy needs are going down, not up! New England’s Energy needs have continued to go down year-over-year (even more than forecasted) primarily due to energy efficiency programs,  the increased energy efficiency of all new electronic devices and appliances, as well as the growth of what is known as “Behind the meter PV.” You can think of “Behind the meter PV” as rooftop solar that contributes a growing amount of energy, particularly during times of peak need in the summer.  In fact, April 2018 was the first time in history that mid-day peak energy demand from the power grid was lower than at the lowest point overnight (when energy use is at its lowest point), due to solar. Read more about this historic event from Conservation Law Foundation here: https://www.clf.org/blog/renewable-energy-makes-history-in-new-england/?fbclid=IwAR1cVGwv0QsMJqaEFiYf4nVFcK5P8D4Zsu_Z_Jn2oBqrl_d3KDQAiY7ALh8
  • We are well past peak periods of energy use. According to ISO-NE, the all-time highest winter peak demand was back in January 2004 and the all-time summer peak was set back in August 2006.
  • ISO New England’s forecast for energy has dropped lower and lower each year for the past five years. By 2027, ISO New England forecasts that the six New England states will use less electricity (on an annual basis) than at any point since 1996.  Click here to read the in-depth report about energy need trends from Synapse Energy Partners titled “New England Electricity Demand: How Low Can You Go?” http://www.synapse-energy.com/about-us/blog/new-england-electricity-demand-how-low-can-you-go-2018

It seems like the proposed plant is not wanted and that there are a lot of issues with this proposal.  Will Invenergy just walk away?

Invenergy is unlikely to walk away at any point before a final decision from the EFSB. This is because, IF they can get all needed permits, and IF they can secure financing to build the plant, they stand to make a lot of money IF they can edge out other resources like coal plants and much older gas plants.  However, remember, there is no guarantee that any significant savings will trickle down to anyone’s energy bills, and we are already over-reliant on Natural Gas for energy and this could increase gas prices even further.   (A better investment would be to upgrade and retrofit existing factilities.)

The proposed plant sounds like a bad deal for Rhode Island.  What can I do?

Yes, it’s a terrible deal for Rhode Island.  It’s bad for Burrillville, bad for Northern RI, bad for our state, bad for our environment, and bad for the whole region. 

Top 10 Ways You Can Help!

1. Follow Us on social media so you can keep up on all the latest information and alerts.

2. Share!  Share!  Share!

  • Share the facts, share our Facebook site, share our posts and tweets. Tell your friends, Tell your neighbors, Tell your co-workers and ask them to share to spread the word.

3. Put a sign in your yard.  Pass out flyers at events.  If you have a business put up a sign and flyers.

4. Take Action: Show up at public meetings and hearings to show your support and add your voice.

  • Check out the meetings page for the latest on relevant scheduled meetings.

5. Take Action: Write a letter opposing the plant to the Energy Facilities Siting Board.

  • Todd Anthony Bianco
    Siting Board Coordinator
    89 Jefferson Boulevard Warwick, RI 02888
    Email: todd.bianco@puc.ri.gov
    Please note: Todd is the coordinator for the board and will not be voting on the plant being built or not.

6. Take Action: Voice your concerns and opposition to the plant to Governor Gina Raimondo and ask her oppose the approval of the plant.

  • Call Governor Gina Raimondo’s office: (401) 222-2080.
  • Email Governor Gina Raimondo through her website: http://www.governor.ri.gov/contact

7. Take Action: Contact your Rhode Island State Representatives below to let them know you are against the plant and why.

8. Take Action: Contact your US Congressional Represenatives to let them know you are opposed to the plant and ask them to oppose the plant and do whatever they can to help.

9. Contact the leadership of boards or organizations you are a part of to ask them to draft statements of opposition and get involved.

  • Email us at info@keeprhodeislandbeautiful.com to let us know if your organization wishes to join the opposition list or if you need additional information about how they can help.

10. Support upcoming Rhode Island legislation to update and improve the RI Energy Facility Siting Act (EFSA)

  • Passage of an updated EFSA will ensure that future proposals are handled in a better way with expanded board members, including community representation and a public advocate.
  • Stay tuned for more info once this is submitted for the upcoming 2019 legislative session.

Can I attend the Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB) hearings?

Yes.  All hearings are open to public. However, public hearing comment period has ended.  We are now in the final hearings where only Invenergy and intervenors can participate in litigating before the Energy Facility Siting Board. It’s still very important to attend hearings however, and it’s quite eye opening.  We encourage as many people as possible to attend hearings, even though they are during the day.

I can’t make it to attend Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB) hearings in person. How else can I watch the hearings?

All hearings are broadcast live from the following RI Public Utilities Commission link: www.ustream.tHYPERLINK “http://www.ustream.tv/channel/WqQyXw296dg”vHYPERLINK”http://www.ustream.tv/channel/WqQyXw296dg”/channel/WqQyXw296dg. However, do try to attend hearings in person when you can to demonstrate to the Energy Facility Siting Board and to Invenergy that Rhode Island Citizens are opposed to this project.

What was the result of the recent CLF motions before the EFSB?

Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) recently filed three motions that were addressed at the latest EFSB Meeting on December 5,2018.

  • Motion Requesting The EFSB To Take Administrative Notice of A Massachusetts CO2 Regulation. 
    CLF contends that Invenergy’s witness Ryan Hardy incorrectly stated in his testimony that Massachusetts used “Consumption-Based” accounting to account for emissions instead of “Production-Based”
  • Motion for the Full Admission of Invenergy’s November 9, 2018 FERC Filing. 
    CLF contends that key pieces of information are missing from their filing, such as claiming that the only obstacle preventing Invenergy from building their power plant are the EFSB hearings, and is therefore further evidence of Invenergy’s dishonesty.
  • Motion To Strike Ryan Hardy’s Testimony Pertaining To Air Emissions.
    CLF is requesting to strike the testimony because it was based on Invenergy having two CSOs and assumed to be operating at a certain capacity and they now have zero CSOs.

Where can I find more information?

You can visit our website www.keeprhodeislandbeautiful.com or visit our active social media channels www.facebook.com/keeprhodeislandbeautiful and Twitter @keepribeautiful.  You can also reach out to us via email at: info@keeprhodeislandbeautiful.com