2009-08-20 / Editorial

LNG tanker port would impact island lifestyle


The U.S. Coast Guard recently approved, in concept, a proposal to build a liquefied natural gas offl oading terminal in the middle of Mt. Hope Bay.

This latest plan, put forth by Weavers Cove Energy, would have 145-ft. wide LNG supertankers navigating the East Passage of Narragansett Bay to Mt. Hope Bay. The massive tankers would dock in the middle of the bay and pump their super-cooled cargo 4.2 miles through underground insulated piping to storage tanks in Fall River, Mass.

The Coast Guard had rejected an earlier plan that required the supertankers to make hairpin turns as they traveled up the Taunton River to Fall River.

This latest proposal, which has received the Coast Guard’s blessing (with conditions), would allow LNG supertankers to cruise past Conanicut Island some 70 times a year – more than once a week. To provide security against a possible terrorist attack, the Coast Guard would escort each supertanker up the bay with a two-mile moving exclusion zone surrounding the vessel. Each shipment of the highly volatile fuel would require that Narragansett Bay be closed to all normal boating traffic. In addition, the Pell Newport Bridge and the Mt. Hope Bridge would be closed while the tankers passed beneath.

Narragansett Bay is the boating capital of New England. These supertankers would frequently disrupt sailing regattas in the summer months. Bridge closings would delay emergency ambulance trips across the Pell Bridge. There could be economic impacts, such as a decline in property values, as well.

Of course, these disadvantages pale in comparison to the danger posed by a LNG supertanker. It has been estimated that should a LNG tanker leak and explode, everyone within a three-mile radius would be killed.

There is still time to be heard. Other agencies must approve the plan and public hearings will be held. We’ll keep you informed. In the meantime, write to our U.S. senators and representatives. They need to know how you feel about these LNG supertankers sailing past your home more than once a week.

— Jeff McDonough

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