A Brown University professor and a climate expert is adding his voice in opposition to a power plant proposed in Burrillville.
J. Timmons Roberts filed written testimony on behalf of the Conservation Law Foundation, one of several groups participating in hearings for the proposed power plant. Roberts said the plant will make it impossible for Rhode Island to meet emission reduction goals outlined in the state’s climate change law.
The law "is only as good as the paper it’s printed on and it’s only as good as how seriously it’s taken by state agencies that are mandated to take it seriously and enforce it as the law of the land,” said Roberts.
But Invenergy’s Director of Development John Niland said in an email that the proposed power plant will help reduce carbon emissions. Niland said the gas-fired power plant is cleaner and more efficient than existing power plants.
Those are claims CLF will refute during hearings. Jerry Elmer, a senior attorney for CLF, said the advocacy group was intentional about choosing Roberts as one of its expert witnesses. Roberts helped shape the state’s climate change law signed by former Gov. Lincoln Chafee.
“Dr. Roberts knows the issue of climate change inside and out,” said Elmer. “He knows it from the Rhode Island standpoint of getting local legislation on climate change enacted by the General Assembly and he’s an internationally renowned expert in the field.”
In addition to a filing written testimony, Elmer expects Roberts to testify before the state Energy Facility Siting Board, the state’s lead permitting agency. Roberts will testify on the issue of carbon emissions from the plant and the climate change emergency.
Roberts believes the power plant proposal is taking the state in the wrong direction, because “it’s going to put electricity onto the New England grid at a higher level of greenhouse gas content per kilowatt hour than the existing grid. So [the power plant] is not more efficient than what we have already.”
Roberts points to an Oxford University study that shows that the construction of fossil fuel infrastructure around the world needs to stop by next year in order to keep carbon emissions within a safe level of global warming.
Invenergy officials stand by their claims that the proposed power plant will reduce carbon emissions across the region by more than one million tons each year.