Council hears LNG update from Harsch, Long
The Town Council Monday directed Town Solicitor J. William W. Harsch to continue to monitor activities regarding liquefied natural gas storage proposals in Providence and in Fall River, Mass., and to be prepared to file an amicus brief in mid-July regarding the Fall River appeal in federal court. Harsch updated the council about the LNG activities and asked what the council would have him do in regard to the LNG proposals.
Councilors also received a report from State Rep. Bruce Long (R-Jamestown, Middletown) on behalf of himself and state Sen. Teresa Pavia Weed (D-Jamestown, Newport) on the most recent state effort to block LNG projects by legislating against use of Narragansett Bay by LNG tankers. Harsch said that effort will be challenged and all parties were monitoring such measures for impacts on their own positions.
Last July, an application for expansion of the KeySpan Terminal in Providence was denied, and an application for the creation of the Weaver's Cove Terminal in Fall River was approved. Both actions were made by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. In January, petitions for rehearing on each of those applications were denied by the FERC.
Monday night, Harsch, who was a special assistant attorney general for the FERC some years ago, reported latest action on each application. He said the Providence plan is now in the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, where the KeySpan owners seek to overturn the FERC action, especially if opponents to the Fall River plan are successful. Dates for the next step of the appeal have not been set, he noted.
Harsch said the Weaver's Cove approval is facing at least three challenges in the First Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Maine. The challenges are coming from the city of Fall River, the Conservation Law Foundation, and jointly from the attorneys general of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. He said the deadline for briefs from the petitioners is set for July 12, and the deadline for amicus briefs is July 19. He explained that the council's decision on its possible brief would best be made within that one week time period. An amicus curiae brief is a "friend of the court" action by someone - in this case the town of Jamestown - not a party to the case but who claims the court decision may affect its interest.
The councilors said they were ready to approve the brief immediately because they have long opposed LNG proposals and do not expect to change their position. After review of the facts and options, they agreed that Harsch should prepare a short statement as their brief for the town and they would plan to adopt it at their regularly scheduled meeting on July 10. Harsch said the brief could be as short as two sentences to two pages, specifying agreement with one to three of the petitions.
The councilors said they would be prepared for a special or an emergency meeting if Harsch needed to revise the brief based on the petitions filed between July 10 and 12. By consensus, they agreed that the town definitely needs to monitor and review activities.
Council President David Long and Councilor Barbara Szepatowski, council liaison on LNG matters, said practically in unison, "We want to be ready to submit . . ." Council Vice President Julio DiGiando summarized, "This is too important to not pay attention to."
In reference to costs for the town to take any legal action, including the amicus brief, councilors noted that other communities had paid $25,000 each to hire District of Columbia lawyers to work for rehearings but had been denied status as parties in the case. Harsch said that Jamestown has paid about $600 for all LNGrelated legal work so far and the cost for the amicus brief would be about two hours work or $250. Monday's update was a "free memo," he noted.