RI DEM grants draft air permit to Burrillville power plant

An artist's rendition of the proposed power plant for Wallum Lake Road in Burrillville.

BURRILLVILLE – The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management has issued a key permit to the proposed Clean River Energy Center, a $1 billion, 1,000 megawatt gas burning power plant planned for Wallum Lake Road.

The Energy Facility Siting Board must still issue a final decision on the fate of the plant proposed by Chicago-based developer Invenergy Thermal, LLC, and will hold public deliberations on the project in June.

But RIDEM’s preliminary finding that the facility will comply with state and federal air pollution control regulations marks a win for the controversial project.

“We have determined, based on our expert review of the application, that the facility will comply with federal and state air quality standards,” said Terrence Gray, deputy director for environmental protection. “Evaluating the air quality impacts from the proposed power plant has been a critically important and complex process for DEM.”

“We encourage others to carefully review the application and the draft permit and provide us with feedback,” Gray said.

Janet Coit, the director of RIDEM, also serves on the EFSB and has recused herself from the permitting process.

It is the second victory over the past few weeks for plant developers, who have faced legal opposition by the town that would serve as its host.

In April, Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein ruled that a contract for the sale of water to cool the plant with the town of Johnston was legal, dismissing arguments that the deal violated the town’s agreement with the Providence Water Supply Board .

Invenergy officials called the draft permit “validation of our ability to build and operate this critical new energy source for Rhode Island in an environmentally responsible way.”

An artist’s rendition of the proposed power plant for Wallum Lake Road in Burrillville.

The proposal has faced heavy opposition from both environmental advocates, and residents who have organized against the plan since it first came to light in 2015. The Conservation Law Foundation has joined the town in a legal battle against the energy company on multiple fronts, including hearings before the EFSB.

Eco RI News reports that a plant by the same company based in Pennsylvania has violated that state’s air-pollution regulations since it began operations last spring.

CFL Senior Attorney Jerry Elmer vowed to challenge Invenergy’s application for the RIDEM permit under the Clean Air Act, but said he remains confident that the EFSB will not approve the application.

Issued by RIDEM’s Office of Air Resources, the draft permit, preliminary determination, a factsheet, and notice of public comment are available at www.dem.ri.gov/invenergy.

The public comment period for the draft permit will be open until Monday, July 15. Comments can be made via e-mail to dem.invenergyairpermit@dem.ri.gov.

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