2011-06-30 / Editorial

Thanks are in order after Weaver’s Cove withdrawal

By Dick Lynn

Residents of Jamestown received welcome news recently when Weaver’s Cove announced that they were withdrawing its applications with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for an LNG facility in Fall River and an accompanying terminal in Mount Hope Bay. The company citied unfavorable market conditions as its reason.

I believe that the strong opposition from citizens, government offi cials and nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island and Massachusetts tipped the scales toward withdrawal of this ill-advised proposal.

Many citizens drew inspiration for this fight from those who fought the development of refineries on Jamestown nearly 50 years ago. Like then, this effort required a broad coalition of committed people and organizations. It’s not easy taking a stance against such a corporate power, particularly when it promises jobs and financial contributions to town budgets while at the same time trying to intimidate the opposition with letters from a deep bench of attorneys.

An extraordinary group of people stepped forward to represent the best interests of the community to this corporate Goliath; I’d like to recognize their initiative and commitment here and thank them for their work.

First, to those who have been in this fight since Hess first announced its plans: Save the Bay, Coalition for Responsible Siting in Fall River, Fall River, Save Bristol Harbor, state Rep. Ray Gallison and former Attorney General Patrick Lynch. One cannot say enough about the time, effort and resources beleaguered Fall River put into the fight, particularly its legal team of Dianne Phillips and Steve Torres.

Our statewide elected officials have been shoulder-to-shoulder with us. Rep. Deb Ruggiero and Sen. M. Teresa Paiva Weed helped me to put together the first talk at the senior center in Jamestown, with the able help of Bruce Livingston. State Sen. Louis DiPalma has also been vocal in his opposition.

I also think we should appreciate the forward thinking of those in the U.S. Congress who crafted bills that would return the authority of LNG siting back to the states where it resided until 2005. They include Sens. Jack Reed, Sheldon Whitehouse and John Kerry, as well as Reps. Barney Frank, Jim McGovern, Patrick Kennedy and James Langevin. They stood up for this region early in the process and helped guide all of our groups along the way.

I would also like to thank Town Administrator Bruce Keiser and Town Clerk Cheryl Fernstrom for giving our new committee such support and guidance along the way. It made the path for us easier in any ways they could make it.

I applaud the vision and commitment of our Town Council and the town’s staff. Led by Bob Bowen, Jamestown formed the Committee on LNG Threat and helped develop the Congress of Councils, a series of meetings that moved to galvanize the towns of the bay to work together on not only this type of threat, but many others to come.

Our council understood this threat immediately and hosted the first Congress of Councils. They also understood, just before Hess made its announcement to withdraw, that we might need to establish a legal fund to fight it if it moved forward. They were quite visionary on this.

The Committee on LNG Threat met every week and between meetings carried out a variety of assignments: liaising with various community organizations and elected officials, organizing the Congress of Councils, tracking Hess’ legal and publicity efforts, keeping Town Council abreast of changes and opportunities.

They withstood harassing letters and weekly scrutiny by Hess in videotaping each and every meeting. These people had nothing but the interests of the community at heart. I had the honor of serving on this committee and want to thank my fellow committee members for their tireless efforts on behalf of our community: Chairman Dan Wright, Peter Converse, Martin Keen and Lowell Thomas.

We also had compelling speakers at the Congress of Councils who encouraged the continued cooperation and engagement of the broad coalition: Whitehouse, Lynch, Peter Kilmartin, Save the Bay’s Jonathan Stone and John Torgan, Bowen, the Fall River legal team, Marine Trades Association’s Mike Keyworth, and Stephen Brigidi of Newport and Bristol County Convention and Visitors Bureau. And thanks to so many of the community groups that turned out to show their engagement on the issue including Save the Bay, Save Bristol Harbor, the Coalition for Responsible Siting, the LNG Working Group and the Kickemuit Water Shed Association.

The Congress of Council’s message had angels from the start in Evan Smith, executive director of the Newport and Bristol County Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, and Jody Sullivan, executive director of the Newport County Chamber of Commerce, as well as Bill Fischer’s public relations group, True North.

With the news of the purported withdrawal, future events will be announced as needed. There is certainly a reason to have one simply to thank everyone for the hard work, but also to acknowledge, as Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

Additionally, we need to monitor the actual withdrawal of their requests for permits, and there are many. We need to monitor what happens with the land in Fall River, remembering that it was sold by another oil company, Shell. And there is an outstanding issue of anchorages by the Coast Guard, which do not take LNG into account.

Hess recently put in their requests to withdraw to FERC. There is a waiting period until July 5, at which point FERC can accept or reject the requests. Then the remaining item is to determine what might happen with the land in Fall River, which Fall River is ably handling.

There will be another Congress of Councils in Jamestown on July 7 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at a location to be announced. It is to commend those who have fought hard to date and to address the future of the bay. The public is welcome.

This has never been an antishipping movement or an anti-Hess movement. It has never been an anti anything movement. It has been pro-rights for the citizens of the bay and the towns here. All of these groups and many others looked after our best interests, and I thank them. Working in coalitions is not easy. What I appreciate more than anything is that you all now know the power you have as individual citizens when you work together and stand together. You have a strong voice, and one that is heard.

And finally, and most sincerely, my thanks to the Jamestown Press for giving this issue generous space in the paper, and demonstrating the power of local media.

The author is a member of the Committee on LNG Threat.

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