2005-08-04 / News

Town Council to hear from governor’s office on LNG plan

By Dotti Farrington

Town Council to hear from governor’s office on LNG plan

Town officials are working to arrange the previously postponed presentation on liquefied natural gas by the office of Gov. Donald Carcieri for the Town Council meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 9.

They are inviting Fall River representatives as well as State Attorney General Patrick Lynch.

Part of the focus of the session is intended to determine if the town needs to budget funds to help fight any use of Narragansett Bay by LNG tankers, and if so, how much and to whom should the funds be designated. Updates on activities also are planned.

Late last month, Tina Dolen for the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission reported on that group’s activities pertaining to the LNG issues. She asked the Jamestown Town Council to ear-mark some funds for the Aquidneck work. The councilors postponed a decision pending more information from various sources.

The councilors are considering the use of a $13,000 account that was originally intended to fight the now abandoned container-port plans for Quonset Point. Some opposition has been voiced against giving state officials any money because they have access to the state budget through the General Assembly.

Carcieri and Lynch have been vying for funds to supplement state funds by soliciting various sources, including communities along the bay as most groups in Rhode Island and Massachusetts battle against LNG tanker facili-ties in each state.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversee such utility activity, recently rejected a $100 million LNG expansion plan for Providence, but it approved a new $250 million LNG proposal for Fall River, Mass. That facility is intended to supply 400 million cubic feet of natural gas daily to New England. That is about 10 percent of all the natural gas needs of the six-state region. Spokesmen for Hess, the appli-cant for the Fall River LNG com-plex, said availability of its LNG would help control prices that have more than doubled in the past decade.

Rhode Island officials and res-idents continue to monitor the sit-uation because the Fall River operation is expected to impact the state as much as was expected from an expanded Providence facility.

Carcieri and Lynch were inde-pendently fighting the LNG plans because they disagreed about which lawyers to hire for the battle.

Island’s role

Led by immediate past Council President Kenneth Littman and State Rep. Bruce Long (R-Jamestown, Middle-town), Jamestown had a lead position in of raising alerts about the negative impacts of any LNG terminal, ever since the Providence application was filed with FERC in 2003.

Other LNG opponents have taken the lead in recent weeks by committing funds to the battle to keep supersized terminals and tankers out of any populated area in southern New England. Fall River itself has committed $650,000 for legal battles, the next of which involves an Aug. 15 deadline to fight the FERC approval. Bristol and Newport in late July committed $25,000 each to join in the Fall River legal action.

Bristol on July 28 gathered affected communities for a rally to support Fall River.

Officials there said it was not fair or appropriate to burden Fall River alone with the battle because the LNG facilities would affect all other communities along the waterways, as well as the entire two states.

Dolen told the Jamestown Town Council two weeks ago that the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission has undertaken com-mitments of $18,000 each from its members, Newport, Middletown and Portsmouth, and is looking for a contribution in any amount from Jamestown. The county group already has started a $19,000 study to document the ways the LNG tankers would impact the waterways, she said. An $11,000 study will report on the impacts of the tankers on bridge traffic, and $25,000 has been earmarked for the Fall River’s legal battle, Dolen said. Jamestown Town Councilors said they will discuss her request at its Aug. 9 meeting.

LNG impacts

Opposition to the LNG facili-ties has been based primarily on fears about dangers of highly inflammable LNG. In recent months, the opposition has focused on several negative impacts, including economic loss-es due to disruptions of marine activities on Narragansett Bay and estimated costs to each com-munity for security during tanker use of the bay. Projections have been made that it could cost each community up to $90,000 each time a tanker passed, and that at least 50 round-trips, meaning 100 passages, are projected per year.

Sole supporter

Newport Councilwoman Colleen McGrath several days ago identified herself as the first area official on record to support the Fall River plans. She voted against her town’s $25,000 for the legal battle.

She said the LNG tankers have had no accidents for decades and that energy needs required such facilities. She suggested the $25,000 be used to explore other energy sources.

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