Tag Archives: RIDEM

Questions on Woonsocket water for Burrillville power plant

At its meeting this Monday, October 3, the Woonsocket City Council will address the item “Power Plant – Woonsocket / Burrillville Facilities.”  This item is on the agenda at the request of Councilman Gendron. The meeting will start at 7:00 pm; follow this link for more details.

Burrillville Against Spectra Expansion (BASE) has this Facebook post:

Invenergy, the company that wants to build a massive fossil fuel power plant in Burrillville, is scrambling to find the water that they need to run the plant.

The BASE post asks people to call Woonsocket Mayor, Lisa Baldelli-Hunt, to express opposition to supplying water to Invenergy now that the Harrisville and Pascoag water districts have turned down Invenergy’s requests.

osp-eis-1988

Woonsocket’s water has played a vital role in Burrillville’s power plant projects.  The 1988 final environmental impact statement about Ocean State Power, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) raised troubling questions.  The FERC report describes the route of a ten-mile long pipeline proposed at the time to cool Ocean State Power with water withdrawn from the Blackstone river.  The report makes the common-sense observation that:

The power plant would compete with other facilities for use of available surface water.

It continues to say that “sufficient water exists in the Blackstone River at Woonsocket to supply the water needed.”  That, of course, was way back in 1988, but this summer’s drought makes one wonder, certainly in the light of videos shot in Burrillville: “you can see the parade of water trucks pulling in.”  Follow this link for more on this.

The situation in Woonsocket is one of troubled waters.  Its water system is among the first built in this country, and dates back to shortly after the establishment of the Providence water system in 1866.  That Woonsocket has an aging water supply system is no news,—witness the title of this post of last March: “Cicilline plan would help city with new water plant:”

WOONSOCKET – Citing concerns regarding the safety and security of America’s water infrastructure, U.S. Rep. David N. Cicilline is requesting that this year’s federal funding bill direct the Army Corps of Engineers to prioritize aging wastewater management systems in financially distressed municipalities …

Aging Pipes Are Poisoning America’s Tap Water” reads an attention-grabbing headline of The Atlantic and it continues with:

Flint, Woonsocket, ...

Flint, Woonsocket, …?

In Flint, Michigan, lead, copper, and bacteria are contaminating the drinking supply and making residents ill.

If that were relevant to Rhode Island, wouldn’t you expect to hear it from our leadership  Maybe … maybe not. After all, we suffer under the bipartisan consensus that lets no crisis go to waste in the battle for the privatization of everything.  (If you do not know how that works, read Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine.)

Woonsocket has been losing industry and business for decades. In 2012, it was threatened by bankruptcy.  There is the “Diamond Hill Road big box exodus.”  Maybe, as a consequence, it has a water surplus, although the video shown above suggests otherwise.

California has a climate-change related drought, a problem exacerbated by Mother Nature’s deplorable lack of understanding of the human law:

California’s surface and underground water is all part of the same system, yet, surface water is generally considered a public good, while ground water is considered a private good. As such, two different legal systems regulate surface and groundwater in California.

In Rhode Island, the Department of Environmental Management regulates groundwater.  God only knows who regulates surface water.
Naïvely, one might expect the RI Water Resources Board to play a central role in the process that would permit Woonsocket to sell water to Invenergy.  Unfortunately, the water board has been reduced to a shadow of its former self.  Much of its expertise has been silently washed down the drain.  How convenient a coincidence for the privatization-solves-all-problems crowd!

So if it’s not the Water Resources Board, who would give Woonsocket it’s permit?  It seems—see page 3-15 of this link—that the Rhode Island Public Utility Commission (RIPUC) once again plays a vital role in deciding the fate of Rhode Island people threatened by poverty, public heath and austerity.  Governor Raimondo supports the Burrillville power plant and that RIPUC members are gubernatorial appointees.  That, of course, gives us great confidence in the process. Yeah, right!

There you have it, the background of a potentially toxic water deal with Invenergy, a deal Woonsocket may not be in a position to refuse. Fragmented regulatory authority, the “absurd legal partitioning of Nature,” and dividing the people against ourselves are but time-honored business opportunities for global corporations.