Conservation Law Foundation, Inc. Max Greene, Esq.
River Energy, LLC Elizabeth McDonough Noonan, Esq., Richard
R. Beretta Jr., Esq., Brenna Anatone Force, Esq., Nicole M.
Verdi, Esq., Alan Shoer, Esq., William Mark Russo, Esq.
of Johnston, Rhode Island William J. Conley, Jr., Esq.
River Energy, LLC
the Court in these consolidated matters are
Plaintiffs'-Conservation Law Foundation, Inc. (CLF) and
the Town of Burrillville, Rhode Island (Burrillville)
(collectively, Plaintiffs)-motions seeking a ruling that
their respective Amended Complaints, to the extent that they
seek declaratory relief, simply present questions of law for
the Court, thus necessitating no discovery. At issue is
whether the Town of Johnston, Rhode Island's (Johnston)
sale of water from the Providence Water Supply Board (PWSB)
to Clear River Energy, LLC (CRE) is "for use for
domestic, fire and other ordinary municipal water supply
purposes" under P.L. 1915, ch. 1278, § 18
(hereinafter referred to as the 1915 Act). Defendants- CRE
and Johnston (collectively, Defendants)-separately object to
Plaintiffs' motions. The Court exercises subject-matter
jurisdiction pursuant to the Uniform Declaratory Judgments
Act, G.L. 1956 §§ 9-30-1, et seq.
20, 2017, the Court issued a Decision (Decision) denying the
Defendants' motions to dismiss as to Count I and as to
Plaintiffs' claims for injunctive relief. Thereafter,
Plaintiffs filed motions in support of a ruling that their
Amended Complaints solely present questions of law to be
determined by the Court. The Defendants filed objections in
response to Plaintiffs' motions. The Court heard argument
on August 24, 2017.
Plaintiffs principally argue that the 1915 Act,
entitled "An Act to Furnish the City of Providence with
a Supply of Pure Water, " with its amendments, has a
plain and unambiguous meaning that does not necessitate
discovery. The Plaintiffs contend the pertinent language of
the 1915 Act presents a pure question of law for the Court to
decide and that no facts are necessary in order for the Court
to determine the meaning of a specific phrase in question.
CLF reminds the Court that in its Decision, it stated
"[h]ere, the Court is presented a question of statutory
interpretation . . . ." Id. at *7. CLF contends
that in such situations, no evidence is necessary for the
Court to address questions of law.
CLF argues, the 1915 Act has a plain and unambiguous meaning.
Specifically, CLF contends that the 1915 Act permits Johnston
to use the water it buys from Providence "for domestic,
fire and other ordinary municipal water supply purposes,
" and that Johnston's proposed use is not an
ordinary municipal purpose. Thus, CLF believes that Johnston
is mistaken regarding the ordinary use of water, and even if
it is "ordinary, " it is not "municipal."
explains that the Court underscored the issue presented by
Plaintiffs as a "concrete issue of statutory
interpretation." Conservation Law Found., Inc.,
2017 WL 2782312, *7. Burrillville further emphasizes that the
Court stated that this "case [is] about water supply,
and the discrete issue of whether Johnston has the legal