Leadership must step up on LNG
I am perplexed and dismayed by the actions the Jamestown Town Council recently undertook by not forcefully opposing Hess/ Weaver Cove Energy’s latest proposal for plans to periodically ship imported liquid natural gas up through the narrow East Passage of Narragansett Bay, underneath two key bridges, to a prospective LNG offloading terminal in the middle of Mt. Hope Bay. The public offi- cials and political leadership of the states of Rhode Island and Massachusetts have almost unanimously voiced their strong opposition to this proposal. This ominous prospect is, and rightfully should be, a wholly nonpartisan issue in which all of the local communities have a vital stake, and should not be subject to petty, partisan bickering.
Yet on Jan. 19, the council decided, for whatever reason, to reject the draft of a comprehensive LNG resolution proposed by council member Ellen Winsor, which had been expressly prepared by the LNG Working Group, an ad-hoc group of local citizen experts, for the town leadership. This working group had been objectively researching all of the relevant facts surrounding this issue over the last two to three months. The council’s decisive rejection, which unfortunately made the national press, was music to the ears of the LNG industry and its supporters. Unfortunately, it gave the impression that the town either doesn’t have its act together with regards to this issue, or just doesn’t care.
Then, during its meeting on Feb. 1, the council chose to endorse the wording of an excellent, but narrowlyfocused LNG resolution that was proposed by state Rep. Deborah Ruggiero last fall. This resolution primarily attempted to reverse the controversial U.S. Coast Guard decision, made last July, which gave approval to HWCE’s LNG proposal from the perspective of marine navigation safety and maritime security. But since it is outside of its purview, the Coast Guard’s decision did not address any of the myriad other key, legitimate issues of concern stressing the affected local communities and states – vital issues that HWCE continues to downplay and/or ignore in its quest for permit approval of its LNG proposal.
Examples of some of these key issues, most of which were documented in the draft LNG resolution that the council rejected on Jan. 19, that substantially increase the risk of adverse impact to the economy, security and environment of Jamestown and the other local communities, include:
• Adverse economic impact on local tourism industry, events and jobs
• Increased risk to local population posed by LNG tanker and facility accidents, and the fact that these units are high-risk targets for terrorism
• Counter-terrorism concerns by the large, close-proximity Newport Naval Station
• Significant insurance increase, tax base decrease and devaluation of local waterfront properties
• Adverse impact and inconvenience of periodic 30- to 45-minute bridge closures mandated by state authorities, including unfunded state and local municipal costs for providing security, and bridge ramp gridlock preventing movement of emergency response vehicles
• Environmental destruction of critical marine habitats in Mt. Hope Bay
• An estimated 1,000 barge runs transiting down the Bay for offshore dumping of very large quantities of dredging material (much of it contaminated) from the Mt. Hope Bay sea floor
• An untried, high-risk, buried cryogenic pipeline in Mt. Hope Bay
• Periodic, unannounced interruption of commercial and recreational fishing, boating, sailing, world-class sailing regattas and music festivals due to the large Coast Guard-mandated moving security zone around the LNG tanker (two miles in front, one mile behind and 1,000 feet on either side)
Last but not least, the Energy Information Administration, an independent analytical arm of the U.S. Department of Energy, recently (April 2009) documented in one of its assessments that, among other things, there is no valid requirement for further introduction of LNG into New England (particularly not through the environmentally sensitive Narragansett and Mt. Hope Bays, over the overwhelming objections of local community and state officials and citizens) because of an over-supply of natural gas for the region, resulting from the recent finding of very large deposits (perhaps the largest in the world) of domestic natural gas in the Marcellus shale deposits in the nearby states of New York, Pennsylvania and elsewhere. Aggressive exploration and exploitation of domestic natural gas, as well as stimulus-funded “green” renewable energy sources such as wind farms, is in full compliance with current national security policy to wean this nation from imported energy sources such as oil and LNG.
It is these types of vital issues (not addressed in the narrowlyfocused Coast Guard decision last summer) that Jamestown and the other local communities will be facing if HWCE has its way. It is these types of vital issues that a R.I. State Senate Task Force is currently holding hearings on. It is these types of vital issues that Jamestown leadership should be proactively addressing in the preparation and issuance of a new, comprehensive LNG resolution.
I hope that, in the very near future, Jamestown leadership steps up to the plate and shows progressive leadership in this matter, on behalf of all the citizens of this community. If Jamestown leadership, in concert with other local communities, local and regional advocacy groups, and local and regional state officials and political leaders, speak with one strong voice in opposition to this LNG proposal, and relays this common voice to the relevant national permitting agencies (particularly the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission), maybe this self-serving HWCE LNG proposal can be withdrawn or buried once and for all.
John G. Shannon