Burrillville reps., senator submit new bill calling for EFSB reform

Councilor David Place will not seek reelection this year and has instead pulled papers to run for a seat in the House, representing District 47.

PROVIDENCE – Reps. David Place and Brian Newberry, and Sen. Jessica de la Cruz have submitted companion legislation in the House and Senate calling for reform of the Energy Facility Siting Board, the state body that governs approval of large-scale energy projects.

The bill was crafted by Leah Donaldson, special counsel for the town of Burrillville. Donaldson was hired to help fight the proposal by Chicago-based developer Invenergy to build a 1,000-megawatt power plant off of Wallum Lake Road in Burrillville.

Critics say the current law, which is more than 30 years old, does not offer enough local control of such projects and that the governing board is too small. Similar legislation submitted last year was passed in the House, before being held for further study by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The news comes as final hearings for the Burrillville-based plant continue before the three-member EFSB. While changes to the law wouldn’t affect Invenergy’s current application process, Town Manager Michael Wood has expressed concern that if the proposal is rejected, a new application could be submitted.

Among hoped for reforms are language that would increase the board to seven members, including two members of the public chosen by the chief executive of the host community. The legislation would also be more environmentally-minded, requiring that proposals comply with the state’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets.

It would also allow potential host communities to submit a report that evaluates the proposal’s consistency with the city or town’s comprehensive plan and local ordinances.

The bill, which was submitted on Thursday, Feb. 14, is scheduled for a hearing and/or consideration on Thursday, Feb. 28. Full text can be found here.

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