2010-12-02 / Front Page

LNG panel focuses on next ‘Congress of Councils’

By Geoff Campbell

Setting the date for a second Congress of Councils topped the agenda at the Nov. 23 meeting of the LNG Threat Committee.

With all members expressing some degree of frustration regarding Fall River’s delay in accepting hosting responsibilities for the congress, the committee set an end date that Fall River officials will need to abide by before alternative places are found.

The committee agreed that an answer from Fall River would be necessary by Dec. 10 in order to secure an alternative location and make preparations for a public congress. The congress would consist of speakers addressing town representatives, the media and the public. The new target date for the council is set for the week of Jan. 26.

“Town solicitors and town administrators [from both Rhode Island and Massachusetts] are working on getting together,” LNG Threat Committee Chairman Dan Wright said. “An executive session will be called if necessary.”

According to Wright, the response from towns on the Rhode Island side of the bay has been “pretty good.”

Committee member Lowell Thomas said that a Dec.10 deadline would give the town 10 weeks to decide if they are willing and able to host the next congress.

Dick Lynn said that he is also frustrated and added, “I think that they are involved in some major filings that will affect this.” Lynn’s contact in Fall River has been Fall River’s town solicitor, Steven Torres. Lynn said that he remains optimistic that Fall River will host the congress.

The first Congress of Councils was held in Jamestown on Sept. 8, as an effort to foster further solidarity in opposition to Weaver’s Cove LNG project. The committee expressed consensus regarding the need for a town other than Jamestown to host the second congress and they also agreed that if no other town stepped forward then the Newport County Visitors Bureau could possibly host the event. As a last option, Jamestown would host the congress for a second time.

On the legal front, the committee discussed Hess, which owns Weaver’s Cove, and its appeal of an Oct. 21 decision. Hess is filing a request for the rehearing of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) decision, which asserts that ownership of a portion of an adjacent “wedge lot” to the potential Fall River LNG storage facility in Massachusetts is undefi ned, requiring the courts to determine the legal owner.

Wright explained that the “lengthy brief” filed by Hess contends that there is no dispute as to the owner of the lot and therefore it is a matter of “settled law” and it is not a matter for the Massachu- setts courts to decide.

From the brief: “There is no issue or dispute for Weaver’s Cove to take to a Massachusetts court since long-established Massachusetts law conclusively shows that the land comprising the Wedge Lot belongs to the Commonwealth and the commonwealth’s own actions on the property provide conclusive indicia of its ownership of the Wedge Lot.” Additionally, the brief claims that the example cited in the FERC decision was not directly applicable to the case.

Wright also described a letter submitted by the United States National Parks Service (USNPS) regional director of the Northeast region asking FERC to reconsider environmental review documents that accompanied the 2005 Environmental Impact Statement ruling.

The letter seeks to provide “additional background” and says that in the time that has passed since the FERC ruling for the original Weaver’s Cove proposal in May 2005, the entire Taunton River has been established as a component of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System (WSR).

The letter further explains that this level of protection for the Taunton River – citing “vulnerable fish stocks,” including winter flounder – will make it difficult for Hess to satisfy the condition in the 2005 Environmental Impact Study that requires “documentation of concurrence from the U.S. Department of the Interior that the project would not have a substantial adverse affect on the Taunton River’s potential designation as a WSR and that the project would be consistent with the Wild and Scenic River Act if the Taunton River were designated a WSR.”

Other documents also discussed included an open letter to shareholders of Hess, which was published in the Nov.17 issue of the Wall Street Journal.

The letter, signed by the executive director of Save the Bay Jonathan Stone, refers to the LNG project as “fatally flawed,” stating that “it will not survive the state and federal permitting process, it faces broad-based, bipartisan political opposition that will confound, complicate, delay and ultimately kill the project [and] recent developments in regional energy markets have undermined any purported public benefits of the project.”

The committee tasked member Peter Converse with making sure that the applicable portion of the town’s website – www.JamestownRI. net/LNGthreat – includes links to the most recent Hess legal filings, the USNPS letter and the Save the Bay letter published in the Wall Street Journal.

The next LNG Committee meeting is currently scheduled for Dec. 7.

Return to top