Woonsocket rejects deal to provide water to power plant

Woonsocket rejects deal to provide water to power plant

But Johnston says 'Yes,' with no public hearing

WOONSOCKET – The Woonsocket City Council voted against a proposed deal for an $18 million agreement to sell water to the proposed Clean River Energy Center in Burrillville only to learn moments later that councilors in Johnston had approved a similar deal.

"Invenergy is now prepared to become a new water customer of the town of Johnston and to extend to the town the same level of financial support – more than $18 million over the next 20 years – as we had offered Woonsocket," the company said in a statement.

Woonsocket officials had spent the last month working to negotiate an agreement, and had held a public hearing on the issue on Friday, Jan. 6. It was that same day that Johnston officials quietly posted a meeting agenda with plans to vote on their proposal, a deal that appears to have gone largely under the radar as opponents crowded Woonsocket meetings.

On Tuesday, several councilors said it was the process by which the company had handled negotiations that ultimately swayed them against the proposal, which would have seen Invenergy Thermal Development LLC paying Woonsocket the prevailing rate for water consumed; purchase a property in the city to build the filling station; pay $200,000 per year in lieu of taxes for 20 years; pay an additional $500,000 per year, escalating at a rate of 3 percent per year, directly to Woonsocket’s General Fund “for taxpayer relief;” and contribute $200,000 per year for five years to either scholarships for the city’s vocational students or athletic fields for school-aged children.

Feedback at the public hearing had been mostly negative, with opponents of the 1,000 megawatt power plant on Wallum Lake Road urging councilors to deny the company.

"For me it's not about the environment," said Councilor Jon Brien on Tuesday. "I'm not opposed to fossil fuel. I believe that the process itself has been flawed."This is not a race to the bottom. Woonsocket shouldn't jump every time shiny objects are shown in front of it. I would rather be known as a city of principal rather than desperation."

In Johnston, meanwhile, the deal reportedly passed unanimously with no public hearing. The company was under a deadline with the Energy Facility Siting Board - the governing state energy – to identify a water source in order to keep their application to build the plant in play.

Councilors Christopher Beauchamp and Melissa Murray expressed fears that the company would go elsewhere.

"I believe this plant is going through whether it gets water from Woonsocket or not," Beauchamp said.

Beauchamp and Murray cast the only votes in favor of the deal.

"While we are disappointed Woonsocket decided not to move ahead with us, we are pleased to have identified our water supplier," Invenergy said in a statement. "We look forward to continuing the review process in this very important project."

Comments

Only time will tell if this was the correct decision by the Woonsocket City Council. However - let there be no doubt - the management of Invenergy are lying scumbags. For the power plant or against it - everyone but the Woonsocket City Administration can agree on this issue: The benefit for the ratepayers of RI was said (by Invenergy management under oath) to be about $250MM - the truth is closer to about $30MM. You get in bed with a-holes, you get crapped on.