2010-05-06 / Editorial

Weaver’s Cove writes its own ‘fairy tale’

VIEWPOINT
By Ellen Winsor

In his response to my views opposing a liquefied natural gas terminal in Mt. Hope Bay, Weaver’s Cove Energy HESS Vice President Gregg Landes scoffed at my comparison of his company’s LNG proposal to the “wolf in grandma’s dress.”

Mr. Landes also declared that I prefer “fiction and fairy tales to the facts and scientific evidence.” Is there any truth to his allegation? Or, is Mr. Landes writing his own fairy tale to hide the wolf at our door?

He attacked my warning that “the public will have only 60 days in which to review the findings [of the environmental impact statement, or EIS] and submit a response” to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

“When she tells you that there will only be 60 days to review the [EIS],” Mr. Landes writes, “ask her where she gets that information.”

I’ll provide the answer: It comes from FERC – which says they typically provide only 45 days for the public to review an EIS and submit a response.

So, yes, “60 days” was an overstatement. However, whether the public comment period is 45 or 60 days, Mr. Landes ignored my point that the window of opportunity for a public response will be very brief.

Instead, Mr. Landes pitched a chunk of red herring into the woods, hoping to distract readers with his irrelevant observation that there will be plenty of time to “review” the document because FERC can take up to “nine months” to reach a final permit decision.

I was talking about the opportunity for public response – not the pace of federal decision-making!

Where in my op-ed piece did I “refuse” to acknowledge the environmental impacts of gas drilling in Pennsylvania and New York? I pointed out that the Marcellus Shale reserves are huge and domestic. I do not support domestic energy extraction without environmental safety.

I did, however, question the safety of the cryogenic pipeline that Weaver’s Cove wants to bury in Mt. Hope Bay. According to Save the Bay Baykeeper John Torgan, the Transportation Department has ruled that a standard computer model is woefully inadequate to predict the risks from a break in this type of pipe.

Consequently, DOT wants Weaver’s Cove to develop an alternative model to predict those risks. But the company says they don’t have to because of a regulatory loophole.

Weaver’s Cove also points out that its cryogenic pipe will be encased by an “outer pipe.” Given the potential danger of mixing cryogenically cold LNG with water, I think the people of Fall River deserve proper risk modeling – even though modeling doesn’t guarantee safety.

I’m reasonably sure that oil companies have used computer models to predict what would happen if their offshore rigs collapsed and ruptured their wellhead pipes. I’m sure they have offered assurances about the “safety” of their rig designs and their ability to repair a wellhead rupture.

A quick look at the aerial photographs of the oil slick spreading through the Gulf of Mexico – a slick which is larger than Rhode Island as of this writing – demonstrates the absurdity of siting a major energy facility in an ecosystem as treasured and fragile as Mt. Hope Bay.

Oh, but think of the jobs the LNG facility will provide! Several hundred during construction – then an estimated 30 to 50 permanent jobs. All these jobs will not be for local people, but don’t worry: Mr. Landes predicts that the facility will pump “hundreds of millions of dollars of economic benefits into the southeastern New England economy.”

What benefits? Mr. Landes doesn’t provide any facts or examples to back up his bold promise. But that’s not surprising. As Attorney General Patrick Lynch pointed out during the Jamestown forum, FERC says the economic benefits of LNG facilities are “temporary and minimal.”

Mr. Landes should also provide some facts to back up his claim that the LNG shipments will lower our natural gas and electricity prices.

We would all like to believe this claim, but, unfortunately, Mr. Landes fails to explain why our energy prices didn’t decline after his industry built not one, not two, but three northeast LNG terminals since 2008!

Why haven’t these terminals already reduced our natural gas and electricity prices? If they have, Mr. Landes, could you please provide some National Grid data to back up your assertions?

If you can’t, then please admit that your promises of cheaper energy, along with your safety assurances, are just a fairy tale.

Ellen Winsor is a member of the Jamestown Town Council and a founder of the LNG Working Group.

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