2007-08-23 / News

State denies dredging plan for Weaver's Cove LNG site

By Dotti Farrington

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) last week rejected the proposal of Weaver's Cove and Hess to dredge Mount Hope Bay to enable its tankers to reach its proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in Fall River, Mass.

It is the third major block in recent months to the terminal plans, with the U.S. Coast Guard and the state of Massachusetts putting holds on the LNG plans pending final decisions.

Weaver's Cove officials said they expect to appeal the DEM action and had already filed a court action claiming that the DEM had not acted quickly enough on its plans. They said the terminal's approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) supersedes state objections. Opponents said the FERC approval is conditioned on several circumstances, some under the control of the states of Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Weaver's Cove officials also said they are proceeding with goals to start construction before 2009, and start operations by 2012.

The DEM said the LNG applicants failed to provide sufficient and timely information, including details on water quality monitoring, the amount of sediment to be released into the marine life habitat and that their plans significantly changed early this year. Weaver's Cove said it would use smaller LNG tankers after Massachusetts refused to remove the bridge that prohibits the massive vessels originally planned. DEM also cited the lack of Weaver's Cove response to Coast Guard concerns and request for more information.

The dredging proposals call for removing 230,000 cubic yards of sediment from the state's portion of the existing federal navigation channel in Mount Hope Bay. The bulk of the area to be dredged, to make the channel deeper, lies within Massachusetts for a total of 2.6 million cubic yards to be removed from 191 underwater acres.

Long term and wide opposition to the LNG plans was fueled earlier this year by a new study that projects an LNG tanker disaster, by accident or by terror, could burn people up to one mile away, or an estimated 64,000 residents along the tankers' water route that includes the shores and inland areas of Jamestown.

The DEM said the LNG applicants did not submit a valid and definitive proposal that upheld anti-degradation standards of RI water quality regulations. The DEM said Weaver's Cove sources continued to submit new data long after the public comment process ended last year.

The Coast Guard said in May the waterway may not be suitable for the type and frequency of LNG marine traffic contained in its smaller tanker proposal. Then the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection suspended its review of the LNG project because of the questions about the bay being suitable for LNG marine traffic. A final Coast Guard decision is expected in about a month.

At least four court actions opposing the LNG terminal also are pending.

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