Johnston’s agreement to resell water from the Providence Water Supply Board to Invenergy for the potential Burrillville power plant has hit a legal snag.
The Conservation Law Foundation, Inc. (CLF) has filed a lawsuit against Clear River Energy, LLC. (CRE), and the town of Johnston, alleging that there is no legal standing for the transaction. The filing seeks a declaration of the plain meaning of a Rhode Island Public Law that was enacted over a century ago.
“I think it’s nonsense. It’s the so-called environmentalists from that Conservation Law Foundation and others that think, I guess, we should be using candles and the sun,” said Mayor Joseph Polisena. “I don’t see an issue with it, I don’t have a problem with it I think we did everything correctly.”
During January’s meeting, the town council approved a 20-year water supply and economic development agreement worth more than $18 million with CRE. Under the arrangement, water will be trucked to the Burrillville power plant from a facility in Johnston, which has yet to be purchased or built. The council’s decision, which was made without public input, drew scrutiny from environmental activist groups and some Johnston residents.
CLF is a nonprofit, member-supported organization incorporated in Massachusetts, with an office at 55 Dorrance St. in Providence. The regional organization, with about 4,000 members throughout New England, including about 200 members in Rhode Island, has long history of working to reduce harmful air emissions, and opposes the construction and operation of fossil-fuel power plants.
“We don’t have to pay an attorney to fight it, it’s going to be picked up by Invenergy, so we should be indemnified,” said Polisena.
The suit alleges that, under the current version of a 1915 act, cities and towns, including the Town of Johnston “…have the right to take and receive water ... for use for domestic, fire and other ordinary municipal water supply purposes.” The organization asserts through their filing that Johnston has no legal right to purchase water from Providence for resale to Invenergy.
“I believe that the politicians, the elected officials in Burrillville are playing both sides to the middle because they signed a deal already for $6 million a year for 20 years,” said Polisena. “What they’re doing is playing their constituents.”