2010-04-22 / Letters to the Editor

Opposing LNG must be a priority

Thanks to the Press for using its editorial space to highlight some of the potential perils of LNG tanker transits in Narragansett Bay, of which there will be at least 140 a year for the foreseeable future if Hess/Weaver’s Cove succeeds in locating its LNG offl oading facility in Mt. Hope Bay. Jamestowners should be concerned about this issue and get involved.

A first step would be to attend the LNG forum at Grange Hall this Monday, April 26, at 6 p.m. Before you resist getting involved because you don’t think the LNG tanker issue will be that bad or you think the issue will go away without your involvement, read on.

Hess’ primary stated upsides to the proposal include possible – although not quantifi ed or guaranteed – lower natural gas prices and the more remote possibility of lower electricity prices for Rhode Islanders, as well as temporary construction jobs and a limited number of permanent jobs in Fall River.

Weighed against these are a number of known downsides, including the dredging of 70 acres of flounder-spawning grounds in Mt. Hope Bay, Pell Bridge and Mt. Hope Bridge closures and effective bay closures when tankers pass through. The closures will surely disrupt local recreational and commercial interests, on average, every two to three days.

There are even greater threats to consider. The security zones around these tankers exist because, as former National Security Council member Richard A. Clarke details in a 2005 report, LNG tankers are likely to attract increasing attention from terrorists as potential targets, with catastrophic results if an attack is successful (Read the report at www.projo.com/ extra/2005/lng/clarkereport. pdf).

But putting aside a local attack, a terrorist attack on any LNG tanker anywhere in the world would likely precipitate stricter security measures than are currently proposed for Narragansett Bay transits. This might include land-based security checkpoints or closures at sites such as Ft. Wetherill (Even in the absence of a specific terrorist threat, the Coast Guard recently established a more restrictive exclusion zone surrounding an existing Freeport, TX LNG facility). There is also the likelihood that Hess will, after its facility is built, determine that more than the currently anticipated 70 shipments per year are necessary, meaning more bay closures.

If you combine these risks and variables, it is easy to envision a future in which the Jamestown way of life will be signifi cantly and permanently harmed.

Hess/Weaver’s Cove CEO Gordon Shearer recently testified before the state senate, and he used a football analogy to suggest how close the project is to pushing through: Hess is the Patriots, it is late in the game, they have the ball, they have Tom Brady and Wes Welker is back.

In other words, he likes their chances.

The failure of the R.I. CRMC to weigh in on the proposal prior to deadline means that approval of the project is now largely a federal permitting issue, although other opposition options must be explored. And while Save The Bay has done a great job of countering the Hess proposal so far, it will not succeed on its own. Go to SaveTheBay.org to learn more, sign an online petition opposing the proposal and find letters to send to your elected officials to express concern.

There are a number of other local groups actively opposing Hess LNG. Save Bristol Harbor has a succinct and persuasive power point presentation at www.savebristolharbor. com/documents/Final_SBH_ LNGslides.pdf. There are also forums being organized for April 30 in Middletown and for Bristol in May.

Previous writers to the Press have tried to rally opposition to the Hess LNG proposal, but we need more noise. Previous writers have also noted that a half-century ago, a band of Jamestown residents did a massive favor for all of us living here today: They devoted considerable personal time and energy to successfully opposing Commerce Oil’s attempt to build a refinery on the North end of the island, which would have destroyed the character of the island and the bay, and would have occupied the real estate that many Jamestowners now call home.

It is time to repay this debt by making active opposition to LNG a priority in our lives – future generations will thank us.
Dan Wright

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