State Representative Cale Keable’s power plant bill took a step forward at the Statehouse yesterday. The House Environment & Natural Resources Committee voted 11-2 for the bill, which now moves to the house floor for consideration.
The legislation would require local voter approval of any tax agreement between the Burrillville Town Council and the developers of a proposed power plant in town.
“I suppose there are people that think with this bill that means the plant can’t move forward – I disagree,” said State Rep. Art Handy, the committee chairman. “I’ve heard folks on both sides say that. But I disagree. I mean, I think in the end it would at least thought push for the best [tax] deal possible for Burrillville."
The bill would also expand the state Energy Facility Siting Board from three members to seven. The siting board would also have to consider any ordinances in favor or against future proposed projects.
The committee’s vote was a small victory for Burrillville residents who overwhelmingly oppose the proposed power plant.
“And we hope we see similar results when it goes to the house floor,” said Burrillville resident Jeremy Bailey, who said he has a good feeling about the committee's 11-2 vote. “And we’re also hoping for similar results when it goes to the senate subcommittee. Hopefully from there it will go on to the senate floor as well."
Labor and business groups say the bill would set a bad precedent for future infrastructure projects if the bill becomes a law. The proposed Clear River Energy Center by Chicago-based Invenergy has divided labor unions that support it and residents who oppose it.
Handy said the earliest the bill would get a consideration on the house floor is next Thursday. The senate version of the bill, sponsored by State Sen. Paul Fogarty, has yet to be scheduled for a committee hearing.