Invenergy hearings focus on facts, lies and hyperbole — ecori news gas leak explosion

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Blazer quoted from reports, called advisory opinions, written by state agencies and departments that endorsed the project. The state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and the Office of Energy Resources (OER) both said the Clear River Energy Center would help meet future electrical demand for southern New England and that renewable energy and energy efficiency will not be sufficient to replace the power lost by retiring power plants.

Blazer read from an advisory opinion by the Division of Statewide Planning that concluded that the fossil-fuel power plant will not impinge on state open space and greenway master plans. The project is proposed for 67 acres owned by Spectra Energy, the operator of the Algonquin natural-gas pipeline, which will fuel the power plant. Spectra also owns a controversial pipeline compressor station that would abut the proposed power plant. Blazer said the power plant would occupy less than 3 acres and the rest of the property would be vegetated and landscaped to hide it from neighbors.

“It’s just not true,” he said. “So this morning I want to talk to you about facts. Not the type of alternative facts that have become far too prevalent in our society today. But what we believe are the real facts in this proceeding. No rhetoric. No hyperbole.”

Jerry Elmer, senior attorney for CLF, argued that many of the advisory opinions are out of date and that several new power plants have been approved and are being built since the reports were written. An August 2016 advisory opinion from the PUC was accurate at the time, Elmer said, but since then a new power station in Bridgeport, Conn., began construction and a new plant was approved in Medway, Mass.

Excess power generation in recent years has lowered the price ISO New England pays for future power-purchase agreements. Elmer said one of Invenergy’s own witnesses, Ryan Hardy, testified that prices from annual energy auctions reflect the demand for new power plants. Elmer then showed that the auction price has dropped significantly in three consecutive years.

He said the proposed power plant would prevent the state from meeting its non-binding goals to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Relying on a flawed accounting “trick,” Elmer said the advisory opinions are inaccurate for using consumption-based modeling. This modeling, Elmer said, would allow Rhode Island to build a new coal-fired power plant and still meet its emission-reduction goals.

Environmental impact assessments are also incomplete, according to Elmer. He referenced decades-old reports from the The Nature Conservancy showing that the land is critical habitat and forestland. He noted that the project would create forest fragmentation in an ecologically sensitive “pinch point” in undisturbed forest between Maine and Connecticut.

Elmer pointed to an assertion by Invenergy that ratepayers wouldn’t be charged for the project while it was suing National Grid and ISO New New England to be allowed to charge ratepayers to pay to connect the power plant to the electric grid.

The recent hearing kicked off a lengthy final phase of public meetings that will be held sporadically between April 26 and Oct. 31. Energy and environmental experts are scheduled to begin testifying July 19. There will be no public comment. The EFSB is expected to vote, during a public meeting, on the application before the end of the year. A written ruling will be released and a seven-day appeal period starts after the ruling is published.