Wood decries decision in Johnston water case; Judge says sale to Invenergy is legal

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PROVIDENCE – Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein has ruled that the town of Johnston can sell water to the proposed Clean River Energy Center, one victory for Chicago-based developer hoping to build the plant off of Wallum Lake Road in Burrillville.

But the facility must still gain approval from the state board that governs energy projects, and Town Manager Michael Wood says he’s confident members will reject the plan.

The town of Burrillville and lawyers from the Conservation Law Foundation had challenged Johnston’s agreement to sell water to developer Invenergy, LLC, noting that it comes from the Scituate Reservoir. They argued that the resale and trucking of water to Burrillville fell outside uses permitted in the arrangement between Johnston and the Providence Water Supply Board, which governs the resource.

Silverstein agreed with lawyers for Invenergy, who argued that the long-standing deal permits sale for industrial purposes. The judge retired last year but continued to preside over the case.

“It’s the town’s position that irrespective of the judge’s decision, Invenergy’s water supply plan for the proposed 1000 megawatt power plant is inadequate to properly and safely supply sufficient water, year round, for the 20+ year life expectancy of the proposed plant,” said Wood.

The ruling comes as the Energy Facility Siting Board prepares to deliberate the application for the plant, in a regulatory process that’s dragged on for some four years.

Plant representatives and opponents have until May 17 to submit final briefs before EFSB holds open meetings to deliberate and render a decision on the fate of the facility. The board’s decision is expected within 90 days, although appeals are likely.

Lawyers representing plant opposition could also still appeal the Superior Court decision.

“We are confident that the EFSB will see this charade for what it is,” said Wood.

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