While Earth Day celebrations are taking place across the globe and world leaders meeting in New York City to sign the Paris Climate Agreement, fracking-friendly politicians are preparing to descend on Rhode Island and four of it’s East Coast neighbors over the coming days.
Five states, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island are readying to hold Presidential primaries on Tuesday April 26 and the candidates are out in force, vying for votes and delegates.
In Rhode Island, Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton comes to town on Saturday, bringing her campaign message to Central Falls High School, and appearing in one of the most poverty-stricken and diverse communities in the state.
Clinton prefers fracking with transparency
Clinton’s stance on fracking is a moving target, ducking and rolling dependent on atmosphere and environment. In a response to a town hall question during the CNN Democratic Debate in March in Flint, Michigan, Clinton provided a protracted response.
“You know, I don’t support it when any locality or any state, is against it, number one. I don’t support it when the release of methane or contamination of water is present. I don’t support it, number three, unless we can require that anybody who fracks has to tell us exactly what chemicals they are using,” the former First Lady said.
“So by the time we get through all of “my” conditions, I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place,” she continued. “And I think that’s the best approach, because right now, there are places where fracking is going on that are not sufficiently regulated, so first we’ve got to regulate everything that is currently underway and we have to have a system in place that prevents further fracking unless conditions like the ones that I just mentioned are met.”
Former Secretary of State Clinton’s answer was met with dead silence.
Gov. Gina Raimondo is building fossil fuel burning plants
Rhode Island’s governor, Gina Raimondo is a Clinton fan and supporter. Clinton visited Rhode Island in October, stumping for Raimondo’s run at the governorship. The governor’s office did not respond immediately to an inquiry on whether she would attend.
“The near-term solution for Rhode Island for energy prices is in my view, natural gas,” said Raimondo in a July 2015 interview with WPRI TV. The July announcement was the rollout of Invenergy, LLC’s plans.
Raimondo supports the build of a 900 MW, gas-fired power plant in Rhode Island. Proposed by Chicago-based Invenergy, LLC, the company plans to build in a rural northern sector of the state, in the town of Burrillville, close to the Massachusetts state border.
“I can imagine that not everybody’s in favor and change is difficult,” the freshman Governor said. “But I hear from people every day who are saying ‘Governor you’ve got to bring energy costs down.'”
On April 13, Raimondo announced the release of the 2016 Rhode Island Clean Energy Jobs Report.
“Rhode Island continues to expand its clean energy economy and create jobs in this growing sector,” Raimondo said. “We’ve made extraordinary strides in promoting renewable energy – from expanding our solar industry to construction of the nation’s first offshore wind farm. Rhode Island is leading the way, and I look forward to continuing to work with our partners to keep the momentum going.”
No mention was made of the Clear River Energy Center in the report.
According to the report, among the states with the strongest energy efficiency policies and programs, Rhode Island has set annual utility savings targets to begin at 2.5% for electric and 1% for natural gas in 2015, escalating to 2.6% and 1.1% respectively in 2017. Utility companies are required to achieve all cost‐effective energy efficiency measures.
The report revealed that with “significant funding dedicated towards implementing all cost‐effective efficiency measures, the state achieved the highest electricity savings in the nation for 2015.”
Opponents of the project agreed and said the state has made remarkable progress in providing electricity to its residents and reducing costs. They put forth the argument that the report upholds position that the power plant, the second to be built in the town, its environmental and health risks aren’t needed.
On Tuesday, environmental activist and Rhode Island resident, Lisa Petrie was arrested in Raimondo’s office after refusing to leave at the close of the business day.
Petrie, who was with a group of activists, Fighting Against Natural Gas (FANG) was the lone holdout when police told the more than a dozen peaceful protestors to leave.
“I think they were very reluctant to make an arrest at the governor’s office,” Petrie said in an interview with WPRI.com.”
Petrie was held at the State Police Barracks and was released the same evening.
Obama’s Climate Plan reduces fossil fuels…
Clinton and Raimondo’s fracking positions aren’t reflective of Obama’s Climate Change Plan.
In August 2016, Obama spoke at the eighth National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas.
Obama, although acknowledging the nation’s current reliance on oil and natural gas, highlighted his plans and the energy industry’s move towards renewables.
“Six and a half years ago, I took office after decades in which our addiction to fossil fuels and foreign oil perennially threatened our planet and our national security. And together, we’ve begun to change that — a lot of people in this room working with us,” the President said. “Yes, we’ve become the world’s number-one producer of oil and natural gas, but we’ve also become a major player in clean energy.”
The President focused his speech on growth of alternative energies such as wind and solar power.
“It’s thanks in part to these investments that there are already places across the country where clean power from the sun is finally cheaper than conventional power from your utility — power often generated by burning coal or gas.” – Pres. Barack Obama
Obama decried big money interests, in particular the Koch brothers, in not only promoting fossil fuels, but supplying lobbies to deter renewable energies.
“I’m getting resistance from some fossil fuel interests who want to protect the outdated status quo. When you start seeing massive lobbying efforts backed by fossil fuel interests or conservative think tanks or the Koch brothers, pushing for new laws to roll back renewable energy standards or prevent new clean energy businesses from succeeding, that’s a problem,” he said.
Clinton, who throughout her campaign has hung her hat on continuing the work that the Obama administration achieved, isn’t as keen on moving away from the fossil fuel industry and their repositories.
For the GOP, Kasich is King Fracking
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, GOP presidential candidate, visits Rhode Island on Saturday also. Kasich will speak at Bryant University.
Kasich supports the fracking industry wholeheartedly. At a Columbus Metropolitan Club election forum in October 2014, he said,
“I love the industry. I love the industry.” – John Kasich
In an interview with the Hugh Hewitt Show in January, Kasich said that fracking in Ohio had not produced a great number of jobs and Ohio’s economy was diversified.
“We estimate direct and indirect, about 20,000 maybe out of the 385,000 that we’ve grown. Ohio’s become diversified, but people will still frack.
A long-time proponent of oil and natural gas energy, has one major problem with the industry, he wants a tax on production within the state and can’t get it.
In a debate in January, he said that fracturing was a solution to insulating americans from fluctuating energy prices.
“With Saudi Arabia and oil production first of all it’s so critical for us to be energy independent and we’re getting there because of fracking.”
The governor took it one step farther, saying the U.S. should continue and expand fracking enterprises.
“And we ought to explore, because you see energy independence gives us leverage and flexibility. And secondly. if you want to bring jobs back to the United States of America in this industry, low prices make the difference. We’re seeing it in my state and we’ll see it in this country. And that’s why we must make sure that we continue to frack.”
GOP front-runner Donald Trump, hasn’t scheduled a Rhode Island stopover as yet. Trump is crystal clear in his support for the fossil fuel industry.
“Fracking will lead to American energy independence,” Trump tweeted in May 2012. “With price of natural gas continuing to drop, we can be at a tremendous advantage.”
Rhode Island’s junior senator pivots
Clinton garnered support from the Rhode Island Democratic Congressional Delegation, including U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, known on the Senate Floor as the number one champion of climate change action.
Whitehouse, the junior senator from Rhode Island shocked local environmentalists when he aligned with Raimondo and said he wouldn’t oppose the fossil fuel project.
In an interview with Bill Rappleye reporter for NBC10, Whitehouse dodged direct questions regarding his support for the project.
“As a general proposition I’m opposed to fossil fuels,” Whitehouse said in an interview with reporter,. “Nobody fights harder than I do in the Senate to try to knock down the fossil fuel industry, break it’s grip on the Senate and let us solve the problem of climate change.”
Whitehouse, Rhode Island’s champion of climate change action and carbon emissions reduction refused to take a position on Invenergy’s proposed power plant.
But this is your backyard,” said Rappeleye. Shouldn’t you be standing up for Fossil Fuel Free Rhode Island?”
Whitehouse back-pedaled his position a thousand times over hiding behind administrative jargon and regulatory legalese.
Whitehouse provided no indication that he would support, defend or protect Rhode Islanders, their health and the state’s environment.
“You have to allow administrative procedures to take their course,” the junior senator from Rhode Island said.
His position was contrary to his accepted stance on climate action and his weekly “Time to Wake Up” speeches. Ironically, his latest and 133rd speech, given on April 14, was titled, “Saying one thing and doing another.”
Whitehouse went on to say that his input and backing would be an improper interference in the process. That statement was also in direct contract to his prior actions within the state.
In October of 2014, Whitehouse visited the ocean side village of Matunuck in the Town of South Kingstown, Rhode Island. Joined by Sen. Joe Manchin (D) of West Virginia, a staunch supporter of the coal industry, Whitehouse toured eroded beaches and at risk properties abutting Block Island Sound.
Village property owners, the town and state regulatory agencies were embattled in a regulatory nightmare, while trying to find common ground to save the property and environment from succumbing to the ill effects of climate change.
“I hope to get something solved that protects the businesses and to do it pretty quickly,” Whitehouse said in an interview with Independent Newspapers at the time. “My job is more to convene people, to try to bring the state Coastal Resources Management Council, Town Manager, Steve Alfred and other town officials and all the business owners together.”
Administratively, the visit to Matunuck’s seaside pubs and beaches, the convening, may have qualified as improper interference. Maybe not.
One weekend holdout
Clinton opponent, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) will visit Rhode Island and rally at Roger Williams Park on Sunday. Sanders doesn’t support fracking – at all. Sanders’ stance on fracking is simple.
“No. I do not support fracking.”