LNG Site Plan Faces Opposition

Wednesday, January 12, 2011 @ 05:01 PM gHale

The controversial Weaver’s Cove liquefied natural gas proposal in Massachusetts continues to face major political and other hurdles.

A bipartisan coalition of Massachusetts and Rhode Island politicians — including Republican Scott Brown and Democrat John F. Kerry — inserted language in the $1.2 trillion Senate omnibus budget bill prohibiting any of the money to go toward approving the project. The measure would have halted federal permitting for Weaver’s Cove, but Senate majority leader Harry Reid abandoned the full bill after support for it faltered.

The Boston Globe reported members of the two states’ congressional delegations pledged to have the same provision added when they debate the budget. Critics to the plan said a terrorist attack or accident would place thousands of people in peril in the densely populated city and harm fish habitat and tourism.

The city of Fall River, which opposes the project, is challenging Weaver’s Cove on calculations they used to determine the spread of flammable gas in an LNG pipe rupture, saying the company dramatically underestimated how large the affected area could be.

“We want to put a stake through this vampire’s heart,’’ said Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Newton, who first inserted the spending prohibition into a House bill this year with Representative James P. McGovern, Democrat of Worcester, which Senate colleagues then picked up.

Only one other LNG storage facility exists on Massachusetts shores and that is in Everett.

Hess, the company behind the estimated $700 million Fall River project, will press ahead despite the continued and “disappointing’’ efforts to kill it, said Gordon Shearer, chairman of Weaver’s Cove Energy. He said the project will bring 1,000 jobs to the region and the political obstacles it has endured are unfair.

“It is most viable and needed,’’ said Shearer. “We have a process in place that allows people to evaluate and weigh these things. … So why can’t it be allowed to work here? Once you start bypassing [established procedures] where do you stop?’’

Hess now proposes to have up to seventy LNG tankers a year travel up Narragansett Bay to berth in Mt. Hope Bay. From there, a sub-sea pipe would carry the liquefied gas more than four miles up the Taunton River to a storage facility at a former oil terminal. Then they would vaporize it to go to homes or businesses or ship it by truck as a liquid.

The company’s original proposal called for LNG tankers to dock at the Fall River terminal. While the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved the plan in 2005, McGovern successfully blocked federal funding to demolish an old bridge, preventing the massive tankers from getting up the Taunton.

Weaver’s Cove then proposed using smaller vessels, but the U.S. Coast Guard rejected it, saying they would not be able to safely navigate the river or bridges. Now the energy commission is reviewing the plan to berth in Mt. Hope Bay, a spokeswoman said.

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