Final Deepwater hearing gets heated

Even the police make an appearance
Sun, 03/02/2014 - 6:30pm

NARRAGANSETT – Unlike the previous Coastal Resources Management Council subcommittee hearing in Narragansett regarding Deepwater Wind, the hearing on Thursday, Feb. 27, assumed a circus atmosphere with outbursts and testy exchanges between attendees and subcommittee members.

Within half hour of the hearing’s start at the University of Rhode Island’s Bay Campus, Narragansett resident Patrick Brady interrupted the remarks of Tricia Jedele, the vice president and director of the Conservation Law Foundation’s Rhode Island office.

Jedele, who is a member of a non-profit, lobbying group, should not have beeen allowed to testify during the hearing, according to Brady.

After picking up where she left off, Brady stood up and objected again. Two attendees told Brady to take his seat and allow Jedele the opportunity to proceed without further interruptions. A man in the row behind placed his hand on Brady’s shoulder and pushed him into his seat.

Soon thereafter, members of the Narragansett Police arrived, as the hearing continued without pause, and summoned both Brady and the other man separately out of the auditorium. Both men later returned, and the police presence remained.

Narragansett Town Councilor Matthew Mannix, like other objectors, repeated the project’s financial implications for mainland ratepayers, which are not in the purview of the CRMC, Chairwoman Anne Maxwell Livingston stated before the hearing started.

When Mannix referenced the finances, member Tony Affigne interrupted and reminded him that the committee could not consider the costs of the projects in its vetting process. “It will simply be discarded,” he said. “You’re wasting your own time.

Mannix responded the subcommittee has treated resident speakers differently than speakers representing Deepwater Wind and environmental groups.

At the first subcommittee hearing in Narragansett, Providence Chamber of Commerce President Laurie White referenced the project’s positive economic impact in terms of jobs and jumpstarting a new technology in Rhode Island — without interruption from the subcommittee.

During his remarks, Brady elaborated on the allegation that the subcommittee has adopted a double standard in its treatment of project supporters and objectors. Supporters can reference the project’s economics, but the objectors have not been afforded the same latitude, according to Brady.

Subcommittee member Paul E. Lamont interrupted Brady during his accusation, saying, “You’re branding us, and I don’t accept it.”

The hearing was punctuated by heated exchanges between attendees during lulls in speakers’ remarks. In an effort to hear everyone signed up to speak, subcommittee members repeatedly requested that speakers shorten their remarks, even though there was no time limit established at the start of the hearing, or at the first hearing in Narragansett.

While the character of the meeting had changed, the content of the remarks remained the same, with a fairly even split of speakers in favor and against the project.

Note to readers: Because of deadline constraints, the hearing continued after this story was filed.