2005-09-15 / Front Page

Council won’t join AG’s fight against LNG port

By Dotti Farrington

Council won’t join AG’s fight against LNG port

Three new reports on the extensively opposed proposals for a liquefied natural gas terminal in Fall River, Mass., surfaced in the past week.

One report led to a unanimous vote by Jamestown Town Council Monday night against giving any funds or joining in the legal brief against LNG facilities in Providence or Fall River under terms proposed in recent weeks by state Attorney General Patrick Lynch. The councilors made it clear that they have consistently opposed the proposed LNG facilities and they would consider other ways to continue that opposition.

Those efforts include their appointment of Councilor Barbara Szepatowski as Jamestown’s designated liaison to other towns and agencies working against the LNG proposals.

The newly filed second report was made Monday by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on rules about the deadline for its acting on claims for a rehearing of the FERC decision early this summer approving the LNG proposal for Fall River. Both the states of Rhode Island and Massachusetts are seeking another hearing in hopes of overturning or significantly modifying the LNG proposal.

The third report involves a filing Friday with the FERC by the state Coastal Resources Management Council about the failure of Weaver’s Cove, the would-be operators of its proposed terminal at Fall River, to meet CRMC requirements and requests for detailed data. The CRMC has disputed a claim by Weaver’s Cove that the CRMC had waived any requirements for the LNG proposal. The CRMC has told the FERC that the Weaver’s Cover proposal has remained subject to CRMC review, and that the review ordinarily takes six months once all the data requested is filed.

The Jamestown Council also received full copies of reports of studies commissioned by the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission. Summaries of the report, detailing dire impacts LNG tankers traveling in Narragansett Bay would have on emergency services, community economies, and marine activities, were issued two weeks ago. The councilors commented on the thoroughness of the report and the attention given to impacts not detailed elsewhere.

The FERC report

The FERC report explained suspension of its rules that would require that federal agency to act on appeals by today. The FERC announcement said that appeals had been filed in an appropriate and timely manner and normally the agency would have to act within 30 days of the deadline for filing, which was Aug. 15. Without the FERC action by today, those appeals automatically would have been denied.

Monday’s filing by the FERC said a new order would be drafted about procedures and about a date for action, but it did not list a new deadline.

“In order to afford additional time for consideration of the matters raised or to be raised, rehearing of the Commission’s order is hereby granted for the limited purpose of further consideration, and timely filed rehearing requests will not be deemed denied by operation of law. Rehearing requests of the abovecited order filed in this proceeding will be addressed in a future order. . . . No answers to the rehearing requests will be entertained,” the FERC report says.

Town action

The vote by the Town Council came after Town Solicitor J. William W. Harsch detailed findings of attorney Lauriston Parks, a member of Harsch’s solicitor team, about the Lynch proposal. Parks said Lynch would not prepare the brief, and it was not available for the town to join without contributing $25,000 to a legal fund originally described by Lynch, according to Harsch.

Harsch early this month announced that he was seeking to challenge Lynch for the office of state attorney general in the 2006 state elections.

The councilors said they clearly understood that Lynch was going to prepare the brief, and that Lynch specifically had told them that they could participate in the legal filing without committing any funds toward the legal battle.

Parks subsequently learned that a Washington, D.C., law firm was preparing the brief, and that the town would be billed directly by that law firm for a portion of the legal fee, Harsch reported.

Harsch and council members specified that such a process would violate both state and town laws against hiring a lawyer without a bidding process in which professionals would submit qualifications for consideration in a competitive manner.

Council President David Long pointed out that the council was prepared to join in the legal filing under the original terms laid out by Lynch in an open meeting.

Lynch had said joining the brief and contributing toward the legal battle were independent actions, not dependent on each other. The town also has a budget item that had been approved to fight the Quonset Point industrial development that was revised without Jamestown having to spend its budget on it.

The councilors were considering designating the remaining $13,000 toward the LNG legal work. They decided they will continue to review ways to remain opposed to the LNG proposals at future meetings.

“We are opposed to LNG, and our opposition is on the record. Jamestown will fight and will make contributions as it can, but this way is not the method,” Long emphasized.

Councilor William Kelly said Lynch’s presentation about assigning the work to a lawyer to be paid by towns “flies in the face” of laws about competitive review of qualifications. He also criticized Lynch for giving “inaccurate information” about the options being presented to the towns.

Szepatowski said she agreed with Kelly, and further questioned why Lynch was focusing only on legal action when so much more could be done through environmental matters, tactics and agencies. In accepting appointment as the town’s LNG liaison, she pledged to put the focus of the fight on environmental concerns and other matters.

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