The Energy Facility Siting Board, like any other public body in Rhode Island, is subject to the Open Meeting Act

A version of the following letter was submitted to local newspapers and is shared with us here by the author Ruth Platner. Ruth Platner is Chair of the Charlestown Planning Commission.

The Rhode Island Open Meeting Act (OMA) states, “it is essential to the maintenance of a democratic society that public business be performed in an open and public manner and that the citizens be advised of and aware of the performance of public officials and the deliberations and decisions that go into the making of public policy.”

The Energy Facility Siting Board, like any other public body in Rhode Island, is subject to the OMA. How, within the context of a law that promotes transparency, can the EFSB allow Invenergy to keep most of the details of their plan to withdraw water from Charlestown and transport it by tanker truck to Burrillville secret? How can the public judge the performance of the EFSB if they can’t see the documents the Board uses in their deliberations and decisions?

Invenergy has disclosed only that the wells will be located somewhere in the approximately 900-acre Indian Cedar Swamp on Narragansett Tribal land. The number of acres of wetland impacted, the scale and location of water storage facilities and the water transport facility, filling platforms, access road, and any other associated development, as well as the proposed route in and out of town for tanker trucks are not available in the public documents.

Invenergy’s demand for secrecy has nothing to do with the Narragansett. The recently constructed Tribal Health Center on Old Mill Road obtained a permit from the RI Department of Environmental Management for an insignificant wetland alteration. The permits and application are online and just as public as any other development application. The EFSB appears to have granted Invenergy a level of protection that even the Narragansett don’t enjoy.

Any business in Rhode Island that plans to construct a building or develop land must submit those plans for public review. The design of Invenergy’s power plant might involve trade secrets, but wetland impacts, water wells and their location, water storage tanks, buildings, and road construction are routine and are public in all other development proposals.

The Energy Facility Siting Act requires that the EFSB base their decision on a finding that the applicant has shown that there will not be “unacceptable harm to the environment and [that the proposal] will enhance the socio-economic fabric of the state”. With the facts of the water withdrawal hidden from the public, is the EFSB expecting us to just trust their judgment?

If the EFSB’s decision to allow Invenergy to withhold from the public the water withdrawal information and related development plans that the EFSB will use in their deliberation and decision doesn’t violate the Open Meetings Act, it still certainly violates the spirit of that law, and that is just as important.

Ruth Platner
Ruth Platner

Visit Our Water Withdrawal Page For More On This Issue