The fight goes on: Town asks Army Corp to require environmental study for power plant

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BURRILLVILLE – Opponents of a long-debated proposal to build a new power plant in Burrillville continued their push toward increased vetting of the facility this week, noting that even though the state application has been denied, there are still two permits for the project under review.

The town of Burrillville is requesting that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers require an Environmental Impact Statement be conducted as part of review of a wetlands permit for the project. In a letter sent by Attorney Michael McElroy, the town also requested a public hearing before the Army Corps to allow various stakeholders to publicly voice their concerns and have them addressed directly by federal natural resource protection agency professionals.

The requests come as part of written testimony to the USACE regarding Invenergy’s application.

“The town specifically requests that the ACOE -New England District comply with the Department of the Army regulations and require the Applicant to prepare an EIS to address the anticipated adverse impacts that the CREC facility and associated Burrillville Interconnect Project would have on the various resources of the natural and build environment and their respective natural, cultural and socioeconomic resources/ receptors,” wrote McElroy. “The town and various stakeholders share several concerns related to the adverse impacts to the environment that the construction and operation of this plant would have should this application be approved without due regard to its environmental impacts.”

The Rhode Island Energy Facility Siting Board unanimously voted to deny an application by Invenergy Thermal, LLC to build the one billion dollar plant in a forested area off of Wallum Lake Road last month. The long-awaited ruling – the result of some four years of regulatory vetting – was widely celebrated as a victory over the Chicago-based developer by opponents, including the town itself.

But an air quality permit is still pending before the Department of Environmental Management, and the Army Corps has continued the process as the federal permitting authority.

The EFSB must also still issue a finalized order documenting denial of the application, issued in June, a step expected sometime in August. Once the order is issued, Invenergy could appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.

If built, the Clear River Energy Center would be one of the largest fossil-fueled energy plants in New England. Opponents, including environmental groups from across the state, say it would disrupt and destroy valuable environmental habitat, store and use hazardous and toxic compounds, and would create new stormwater and wastewater discharge.

“The town is now in uncharted waters. Even though the EFSB has voted no permit for the Invenergy project, it is still unclear why the Army Corps of Engineers and RI DEM Air Emissions permitting processes continue,” said Burrillville Town Manager Michael Wood. “That being said, the town will stay engaged in the unlikely event these permits may have relevance now or in the immediate future.”

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