Energy company Invenergy plans to build a natural gas-fired power plant in Burrillville. Governor Gina Raimondo hailed the project Tuesday, saying it will replace aging power plants and reduce air pollution. But the plan was met with skepticism and opposition by residents and environmental advocates.
More than a dozen protestors took to the streets outside the Providence Chamber of Commerce to challenge plans for the“Clear River Energy Center” in Burrillville.
They take issue with Governor Gina Raimondo’s characterization of natural gas as a clean source of fuel. Kingston resident Stephen Dahl points out the main ingredient in natural gas is methane, a greenhouse gas at least 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. And it leaks during production.
“So it’s something that’s going to make it far worse for our energy situation and climate disruption,” said Dahl.
Inside the building, Raimondo and representatives from the Chicago-based company Invenergy touted the project. The governor said the state has to pursue a mixed energy portfolio.
“We don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing,” said Raimondo. “We have to take action on a number of fronts all at once.”
Raimondo and other New England governors are leading an initiative to expand natural gas pipelines and reduce electricity prices.
John Niland, development director for Invenergy, is leading the Burrillville project.
“By having this project, and having the ability to pay for additional pipeline expansions, it’s our view, and it’s our consultants’ views—would agree with that—is that it will actually help lower natural gas prices in the future,” said Niland.
Niland said natural gas is projected to be available for decades thanks to the advent of fracking, a drilling process used to release natural gas trapped underground. The process has drawn criticism from environmental groups because it uses undisclosed chemicals and remains mostly unregulated. But Niland said it’s still cleaner than oil or coal.
“Natural gas is the most cleaning-burning fuel than you could have,” he said. “It’s certainly much more environmentally responsible and friendly than those other alternatives.”
The Burrillville facility is expected to comply with President Obama’s new plan to cut carbon emissions from power plants. But that doesn’t reassure environmental advocates and residents who protested outside the meeting – people like Central Falls resident Lorraine Savard.
“It’s cleaner energy, not clean energy,” said Savard. “Clean energy is wind, solar, water power!”
The governor said all sources of energy must be on the table to address rising electricity prices and the threat of climate change.
Construction on the Burrillville power plant would begin at the end of next year, if it wins approval from state and local regulators.
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