Environmental groups say Whitehouse ‘misrepresented’ their views on power plant

A rendering of Invenergy's proposed power plant in Burrillville. (credit: Invenergy)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Local environmental groups aren’t happy with how U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is defending his support for a new gas-fired power plant in Burrillville.

During an exclusive interview with WPRI.com last month at his Capitol Hill office, Whitehouse said he supports the project because it will help solve the problem of inadequate natural gas supply in Southern New England.

Asked whether he’s received any blowback for refusing to oppose the power plant, particularly considering his vocal support for efforts to tackle climate change, Whitehouse said: “Some. There’s a small group of people who would like to have me change my position.”

“From the larger environmental movement – the Save the Bays and the League of Conservation Voters and the Nature Conservancies and all that – there’s no blowback whatsoever. They understand the difference between the national and the local concern,” he said.

On Tuesday, however, the Environmental Council of Rhode Island – an umbrella organization that includes dozens of groups, including Save the Bay and the Nature Conservancy – said Whitehouse had “misrepresented the views of Rhode Island’s environmental community” in the interview.

“Senator Whitehouse is mistaken,” Jamie Rhodes, the Environmental Council’s president, said in a statement, describing his group as “a strong and consistent opponent” of the power plant. He added that the council’s members still have “deep respect for Senator Whitehouse’s work in the U.S. Senate to address climate change.”

Invenergy LLC has proposed building the new 900-megawatt power plant, dubbed the Clear River Energy Center. The company says it hopes the $700-million facility will be up and running by the summer of 2019. It is currently seeking approval for the project from the R.I. Energy Facility Siting Board and other government bodies.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He hosts Executive Suite and writes The Saturday Morning Post. Follow him on Twitter: @tednesi

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