2007-09-13 / News

National Grid undecided on LNG plans

By Dotti Farrington

National Grid, the major provider of energy in Rhode Island and elsewhere, is reviewing its pursuit of federal approval, already denied twice, for tankers to supply its newly-acquired KeySpan liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility in Providence. Use of oversized LNG vessels is seen by opponents, including those in Jamestown, as a safety and security threat to coastal residents.

National Grid is the Londonbased energy giant that last month completed a multi-billion dollar acquisition of numerous properties, including the KeySpan LNG storage tank in Providence, and abutting New England Energy property. Corporate officials said they are reviewing the LNG plan ,but talk already is spreading about how the merger could help to revise the once rejected plan for new consideration.

Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch, this week issued a plea to National Grid to abandon the LNG effort. The KeySpan initiated appeal on that plan is due for federal court action Oct. 26. National Grid can drop or pursue the appeal, or amend the original KeySpan plan because it now has land to meet federal objections about limited space for the marine terminal.

Lynch appealed in a letter handdelivered Monday to Michael Ryan, now the corporation's vice president for government affairs for New England. Lynch leaned on National Grid to work to protect its reputation for being community minded as a reason for the company to rethink LNG plans for Providence.

Ryan's spokesman, David Graves, said late Tuesday that Ryan would review the LNG venture but did not expect to comment before meeting with Lynch, at a time to be determined. Graves said National Grid needs time to review all activities of its acquisitions.

Graves said the company is committed to develop use of LNG as part of its energy strategies to supply affordable energy to its millions of customers. He said the company is not prepared this week to say what it will do about the Providence LNG plans.

Jamestown and other opponents along Narragansett Bay have opposed LNG tankers going along its shores into heavily populated areas for years. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) rejected the KeySpan plan in 2005 and rejected an appeal on the plan in 2006.

FERC approved in 2005 a Weaver Cove-Hess plan for a LNG terminal in Fall River, Mass., where work is continuing while further approvals hinge on a US Coast Guard decision in coming weeks on a tanker plan there.

The state's attorney general said Monday he urged National Grid to abandon efforts for the LNG terminal in Providence and asked National Grid to withdraw the Key- Span court effort.

"I am forced to question National Grid's continuing efforts to overturn FERC's denial of KeySpan's quest," Lynch said. He wrote, "National Grid's reputation for corporate citizenship and environmental stewardship stands in conflict with continued pursuit of this ill-conceived project."

Lynch said the KeySpan project "directly threatens the safety and security of the state's citizens and imperils the economic future of Providence and all communities along the 29-mile (Narragansett Bay) tanker route."

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