Take your pick: solidarity, politics or crime

[BREAKING NEWS:  Also Glocester’s town council stands in solidarity with Burrillville.  More will follow.  Back to the original post.]

Fossil Free RI member Claudia Gorman—thank you, Claudia!—explains a couple of “minor” conflicts of interest that haunt the process currently happening at the Rhode Island Energy Facility Siting Board.  The board must decide to site or not to site Invenergy’s soon-to-be-stranded asset, its proposed fossil-fuel power plant in Burrillville.

Once the power plant will get its go-ahead, which is not a done deal yet, the next question will be how our leadership will arrange matters so that We, the Rate Payers, will foot bill.  Will it be 38 Studios style bail-out, or will they come up with a new scheme to protect their corporate friends?  We’ll find out.

Here, courtesy Steve Ahlquist, is Claudia’s testimony before the Middletown Town Council:

If you do not have time to watch the video, the following summary might suffice. Everybody of Rhode Island’s leadership is in bed with everybody else.  The Public Utility Commission, which will also play a major role in a potential Woonsocket-Invenergy water deal, is so tangled up with the Raimondo administration and its Office of Energy Resources that it takes forever to explain all the conflicts of interest, but the details don’t really matter.

“Respect the process,” Governor Raimondo says.  Sure, even the Mafia has processes, but the fundamental problem is that money not only affects politics, it affect morality itself.  Here is an intriguing New York Times quote:

Money, in other words, puts us in the frame of mind of Michael Corleone as he decides to enter the family business. “It’s not personal,” he tells his brother. “It’s strictly business.”

The good news is that the vast majority of humanity are good people who understand solidarity.  Steve Ahlquist’s report over at Rhode Island Future tells that part of Claudia’s story.

The bad news is that the climate change clock is ticking.  There may come a time that we’ll have to ask for forgiveness of future generations for what we did to the Earth they shall inherit.  Let me correct that: the time is now.


Way too high, but nothing special about 400 ppm carbon dioxide

The world passes 400 ppm carbon dioxide threshold. Permanently

Of course, there is no threshold at 400 ppm. If there is one, it’s at 350 ppm.  As Hansen and friends discuss in Young People’s Burden: Requirement of Negative CO2 Emissions

We advocate a stricter goal, based on restoring Earth’s energy balance and limiting the period when global temperature is above the range of the Holocene; temperature stability of the Holocene has allowed sea level to be stable for the past several millennia in which civilization developed. This goal leads to a CO2 target of 350 ppm, …


Humans use the decimal system.  That’s a convention without any physical significance.  400 ppm might look special to humans, to nature it does not.  To nature 400 ppm is just an arbitrary point well into the danger zone on a curve of global exponential growth of a little over 2% increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide starting with the industrial revolution.

The 70 year rule implies that the amount of CO2 emitted by humanity into the atmosphere doubles every 35 year. Keep that in mind when you hear talk about the great things we’ll do by 2050, almost 35 years from today.

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.


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.

Plant-based diets could save millions of lives and dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions

A study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy Sciences, makes an estimate of both the health and climate change impacts of abandoning meet for plant-based diets across the world.

Empire and corporate power in the time of climate change

Watch this interview with Nick Buxton on the Real News Network: “US National Security Policy for Climate Change Seeks Security for Corporate-Controlled Assets.”
Then listen to our own U.S. Senator Jack Reed as he addresses RI environmentalists a while back.
After that, explain to me what the real difference between what the two right wings of the duopoly, other than the sound of the rhetoric.
For our Senator Jack Reed—who will most likely be the chair of the Armed Service Committee if the Democ Rats take back the U.S. Senate for the Corp Rats—climate change is just another but a security threat.
Imagine looking at our U.S. Senate, of which Jack Reed is a pretty representative one-member sample, and ask yourself how others see us, say the people of Bangladesh, the Philippines, and the refugees around the Mediterranean to name just a few..
When you corner our members of our RI congressional delegation, their reply invariably is some variant of:
  1. If we don’t do it the Russians will.
  2. This brings jobs to RI.
Never mind that those jobs will be mostly be supplied by the funeral industry.

Pictures at a Rubber Stamp Rebellion


Sheldon Whitehouse supports “Clear River”

After a prolonged balancing act on the fence, Senator Whitehouse of National Grid has come down on the side of supporting Invenergy’s Clear River Energy Center in Burrillville.

The senator uses his same old arguments about choke points and price spikes.  That none of those were seen during last year’s winter has not affected his thinking.  What does Reuters know when they write about As New England freezes, natural gas stays cheap?

Senator Whitehouse’s and climate speeches! You have to wonder: does he realize that he is just providing cover for Obama who systematically does the opposite of what he says?

Radioactive waste and environmental racism in Denver, CO

This post was prompted by a post of Sharon Kelly’s in DeSmogBlog. The title says it all: “Western State Regulators Struggling to Keep up with Radioactive Fracking and Drilling Waste: New Report.”

The following is from Craig Collin’s TOXIC LOOPHOLES, Failures and Future Prospects for Environmental Law.  It paints a “somewhat disconcerting” picture of the Environmental Protection Agency. Yes, that is the selfsame agency that will oversee the #CleanPowerPlan.

The Shattuck Chemical Company, located in Denver’s working class neighborhood of Overland Park, had been listed as a superfund site since 1983. After years of pushing the EPA to remove the tons of radioactive waste located at the site, the EPA finally agreed that removal was the only remedy that would adequately ensure the health and safety of the community.

But suddenly, without explanation or consultation with the residents of Overland Park, the EPA reversed itself and announced a new plan. Labeled the “mound and cap” method, this plan consisted of piling half a million cubic yards of radioactive waste inside a concrete block and sealing it with a clay cap. The result would be a giant 17 foot high monolith filled with radioactive waste right in the middle of Overland Park.

Overland Park residents felt betrayed and outraged. The plan was angrily opposed by the neighborhood, the mayor of Denver, the Governor of Colorado and Republican Senator Wayne Allard. Allard encouraged citizens to contact the Ombudsman’s Office.
In 1999, Martin and Kaufman initiated their investigation and concluded that the “mound and cap” plan was faulty, dangerous and not the normal procedure for dealing with this type of problem. Then they launched an inquiry into why the EPA had abruptly reneged on its removal agreement.

They found that EPA’s reversal came after a series of secret meetings between high level EPA officials and the attorneys representing Shattuck Chemical Company, the party liable for cleaning the site. In addition, the ombudsman’s investigation forced EPA officials to concede that they purposely misled the public about the safety and stability of the concrete container that would degenerate and leak radioactive waste much sooner than they originally claimed. Public outrage prompted the agency to scrap the “mound and cap” plan and restore the removal policy.

Removing the radioactive soil and hauling it to a hazardous waste disposal site was a much more expensive remedy. So Shattuck Chemical and its parent company, Citigroup, pressured the EPA to reduce their cleanup liability and use taxpayer dollars to make up the difference. Before these negotiations were finalized, President Bush appointed Christie Todd Whitman to head up the EPA.

Citigroup was the very first firm listed on Whitman’s “Public Finance Disclosure Form.” She and her husband owned about $250,000 of Citigroup stock. In addition, Whitman’s husband, who worked for Citigroup for 15 years, had recently become managing partner in a venture capital firm (Sycamore Ventures) in which Citigroup was a principle investor. Clearly, any involvement by Whitman in the negotiations between EPA and Citigroup Shattuck would be a serious conflict of interest.

Reading this I wondered what this “working class neighborhood” looks like. So I consulted the EPA’s EJSCREEN: Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool

Bar graph of Demographic Indicators of neighborhood in Denver, CO

Bar graph of Demographic Indicators of neighborhood in Denver, CO

Here is the explanation of the percentiles listed in the bar graph.  Higher than the 50th percentile means that the community is over-represented for this index.

  1. A Demographic Index is based on the average of two demographic indicators; Percent Low-Income and Percent Minority.
  2. Percent Low-Income: The percent of a block group’s population in households where the household income is less than or equal to twice the federal “poverty level.”
  3. Percent Minority: The percent of individuals in a block group who list their racial status as a race other than white alone and/or list their ethnicity as Hispanic or Latino. That is, all people other than non-Hispanic white-alone individuals. The word “alone” in this case indicates that the person is of a single race, not multiracial.
  4. Less than high school education: Percent of people age 25 or older in a block group whose education is short of a high school diploma.
  5. Linguistic isolation: Percent of people in a block group living in linguistically isolated households. A household in which all members age 14 years and over speak a non-English language and also speak English less than “very well” (have difficulty with English) is linguistically isolated.
  6. Individuals under age 5: Percent of people in a block group under the age of 5.
  7. Individuals over age 64: Percent of people in a block group over the age of 64.​ 

Dear Raimondo team

Dear Raimondo team:

Your fracked gas policy—as set forth in this press release—clashes with your duty to protect the environment—Art. 1 Sec. 17 of the RI Constitution.

For the health and climate impacts of your policy, please refer to this compendium published by Concerned Health Professionals of NY.

How, if I may ask, will you explain to your children and grandchildren your failure to act in accordance your constitutional duty?

You seem to think that political pragmatism will suspend the laws of
nature. I am not aware of any experimental findings that support this point of view and I regret that you chose to turn down my request to meet with the Governor in your email of last October 6the stating: “At this time the Governor’s schedule is extremely tight and we cannot schedule a meeting of this type.”

Yours respectfully,
Peter Nightingale
Professor of Physics

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