to FERC Re: Weaver's Cove
P.O. Box 144
Fall River, Massachusetts 02724-0144
"Citizen action for
a better community."
September 18, 2004
Magalie R. Salas, Secretary
Secretary Ellen Roy Herzfelder
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Exec. Office Environmental
888 First St., N.E., Room 1A 100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Washington, DC 20426 Boston, MA 02114
Attn: MEPA Office
Re: Docket No. CP04-36-000.
Weaver's Cove LNG project in Fall River, MA.
Dear Secretary Hertzfelder
and Ms. Salas:
Green Futures is a regional
environmental organization based in Fall River, Massachusetts.
We are submitting these comments on the Draft Environmental Impact
Statement for the Weaver's Cove LNG project in Fall River on
behalf of our membership. We are also submitting these comments
on behalf of The Coalition for the Responsible Siting of LNG
Facilities, an organization that is the lead citizen advocacy
organization in the city on the LNG issue and one that represents
several neighborhood and civic organizations in the city.
Request for an extension
of time to review the project:
Green Futures requests an extension
of the comment period for the DEIS/DEIR for the Weaver's Cove
project to an additional 45-day period. The DEIS is a complex
document that cannot be reasonably be reviewed within the initial
45-day time frame.
Request for the development
of a Supplemental Draft EIS/EIR:
The many issues of concern
that are raised in our letter, and in correspondence from other
agencies and individuals, should dictate the preparation of a
Supplemental Draft EIS. This would allow the opportunity for
a response to these concerns and issues from the Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission, and---most importantly---a Supplemental
Draft EIS will allow the opportunity for the public and public
agencies to comment on these responses.
Our concern is that, without a Supplemental Draft EIS, the publication
of the Final EIS may not adequately respond to public and agency
comments and will preclude any further comment on the EIS. This
would be unfortunate, given the inadequacy of the DEIS.
If FERC declines to publish a Supplemental Draft EIS, we request
that Secretary Hertzfelder issue a Supplemental Draft EIR that
responds to these concerns. In her Certificate establishing a
Special Review Procedure for the joint review of the Weaver's
Cove project, dated August 28, 2003, the Secretary said:
"Because FERC prepares the EIS, rather than the proponent,
a situation may arise following review of the draft EIS whereby
the draft EIS is adequate as an EIS and generally adequate as
an EIR as well, but has left unresolved certain issues pertinent
to the MEPA review. If this be the case, and the unresolved issues
are sufficiently important, I reserve the right to find the Draft
EIR adequate but nonetheless require the preparation of a Supplemental
Draft EIR, and issue a Certificate guiding content of the supplemental
If FERC declines to prepare
a Supplemental Draft EIS, we request that the Secretary invoke
this provision of the Special Review Procedure in her Certificate
on the Draft EIS.
Suspend review of the
Weaver's Cove project until the Department of Transportation
conforms with the Congressional mandate to develop location standards
for the siting of natural gas facilities.
As mentioned by Massachusetts
Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly in his comments to FERC on
the Weaver's Cove project, DOT has ignored Congress by failing
to develop locational standards for LNG facilities and has instead
developed "design standards" for facilities regardless
of where they are located. Thus the development of exclusion
zones, which DOT considers as equal in effect to remote siting.
However, the General Accounting Office has said on this topic
that "we believe remote siting is the primary factor in
safety." We agree.
The Attorneys General of Massachusetts and Rhode Island have
filed a Petition for Rulemaking requesting that DOT revisit its
"locational standards" and revise them accordingly
in conformance with the original Congressional intent as specified
in the Hazardous Liquids Pipeline Safety Act of 1979.
We request that FERC suspend
consideration of the Weaver's Cove project until the petition
of the Attorneys General is reviewed and decided and until DOT
complies with the intent of Congress.
of the Weaver's Cove project should await the development of
a regional plan for LNG facilities.
Since the development of the
DEIS, public awareness of the LNG issue in New England has increased.
In addition, new LNG projects have been announced and are in
the process of being permitted. FERC's process of considering
projects on a "first-come, first-served" basis is a
fundamentally flawed approach to siting these dangerous facilities.
The best approach would be to consider the need of the northeast
region and the best siting alternatives to meet that need. For
example, the DEIS does not consider that, in Canada alone, LNG
projects are being permitted that would result in the production
of 4 billion cubic feet of gas daily. FERC Chairman Patrick H.
Wood III stated, at an energy conference held on September 13,
2004, that even if two of these Canadian projects get built,
the needs of the northeast would be met.
Without a regional analysis, there is a danger of producing too
many LNG facilities and putting them in the wrong locations.
The significance of these
factors warrants the completion of a regional analysis before
the Weaver's Cove project proceeds.
Green Futures and the Coalition
for the Responsible Siting of LNG Facilities jointly requests
the preparation of a Supplemental Draft EIS (or EIR) for the
Alternatives have not been
adequately explored in the DEIS.
The DEIS does not adequately
explore alternatives to the Weaver's Cove project, a failing
that should be addressed in a Supplementary Draft EIS/EIR. Offshore
alternatives in New England are dismissed even though an actual
project, the Northeast Gateway Project, is being proposed 10
miles off of Gloucester and with a technology that is currently
being permitted by Federal agencies in the Gulf of Mexico.
In addition, the DEIS inexplicably restricts the area of consideration
of alternatives to south of Salem. We agree with the Massachusetts
Attorney General when he says in his comments that "because
FERC has not provided any adequate explanation for its rejection
of alternative sites north of the southern terminus of the Maritimes
and Northeast pipeline, its failure to analyze such alternatives
in the DEIS is fatally flawed."
Therefore, a Supplemental
Draft EIS/EIR should be prepared that includes an analysis of
alternatives that recognizes the options that are currently available
and that includes options that are and will be available north
of the region in Maine, Eastern Canada and offshore.
have not been described in the DEIS.
In her Certificate on the ENF
for the Weaver's Cove project, dated August 28, 2004, the Secretary
of Environmental Affairs states that the EIR shall evaluate "the
'worst case" safety event involving the loss of the physical
integrity of the LNG tank and delivery tankers." The DEIR
has not done this.
The "worst case" scenario described in the DEIS for
the terminal tank involves a flame that reaches 149 feet to the
top of the containment tank. This is misleading in the extreme.
The worst-case scenario would involve a terrorist attack by aircraft
that would puncture the tank, expose the super-cooled LNG, its
conversion to 4.4 billion cubic feet of gas, and the ignition
of the gas from the initial impact of the aircraft. The heat
generated from this release would be enormous, the energy equivalent
(in Btu's) of 84 atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. Professor
James Fay of MIT has estimated that such a release would have
a thermal radiation zone of two miles in radius, an area within
which humans could experience first, second and third degree
burns and fatalities.
The ABS Consulting study on marine spills commissioned by FERC
and issued in May, 2004, states that the height of a flame from
a release from a tanker ship would be 900 feet from a one-meter
hole in the inner hull and 1,450 feet for a three-meter hole.
Given the far greater volume of LNG that would be released from
an attack on a terminal tank, the height of the flame would be
much higher and its impact considerably greater than a flame
from a tanker ship.
The worst-case scenario for the release of LNG from tanker ships
used in the DEIR is also inadequate. FERC did not even use the
worst-case scenario described in its own consulting study on
marine releases prepared by ABS Consulting. Instead, FERC used
the least-damaging scenario that described an attack that would
result in a one-meter hole in the inner hull of the tanker. However,
this scenario would result in only 10% of the LNG being released
from the ship (one-half of one of the five compartments).
For tankers, the worst-case scenario has already been described
in a report prepared for the Distrigas facility in Everett, Massachusetts
by Lloyds Register following the events of 9/11/01. As described
in an article in the Mobile Register, Lloyds describes
a scenario where one compartment, when ruptured, would result
in a fire that would cause all of the compartments to rupture
and explode. This could logically occur from the explosion of
gasses remaining in the first-ruptured compartment once it is
half-emptied; by the warming of abutting compartments due to
the melting of the surrounding insulation; or by the cracking
of the ship's plating due to the effect of the super-cooled LNG
liquid on steel.
The worst case scenario related to the rupture of an LNG tanker
truck would occur on the Route 79 approach ramps to the Braga
Bridge. That incident could cause the bridge to fail, require
years to repair, and result in unimaginable congestion as Interstate
Route 195 traffic winded its way through the city to the Brightman
The failure of the DEIS
to describe the most likely three worst-case scenarios for (1)
the terminal, (2) the tanker ships and (3) the tanker trucks
is a serious omission and should be rectified in a Supplemental
An evacuation plan has
not been developed as part of the DEIS.
FERC states in the DEIR that
Weaver's Cove, in consultation with local public safety agencies,
shall develop an evacuation plan for the affected neighborhood
before construction commences.
An evacuation plan should be
an essential part of the EIS/EIR process because it describes,
in stark and understandable terms, whether a population can indeed
be evacuated from an area and under what conditions. This is
information that the public and public safety agencies need to
know and review during the EIS/EIR process, not after, when the
opportunity to comment is past.
If affected populations cannot be evacuated in the event of a
worst-case (or nominal-case) release, then that is important
information that needs to be considered in making a decision
on whether any facility should be sited on a particular site.
Preliminary evacuation scenarios developed by Green Futures and
the Coalition (based on information in the ABS study and other
sources) shows that the fire from an LNG release would be so
swift and so hot that rescue of certain populations would be
A Supplemental Draft EIS/EIR
should be prepared that discusses evacuation strategies under
alternative worst-case scenarios.
Without such information, a
thorough review of the impacts of the Weaver's Cove project cannot
be made. If necessary, the evacuation analysis can be restricted
to review by public safety and elected officials.
The allowed thermal exclusion
zones in the DEIS do not reflect anticipated damage to humans.
On page 4-196, the DEIR describes
comments received that suggest that the limit of the thermal
radiation zone for the project should be lowered from 5kw/m2
(1,600 Btu/ft2-hr) to 1.6 kw/m2 (507 Btu/ft2-hr). This recommendation
was made by Professor James Fay and others. Uncovered persons
in the zone between these two limits would experience severe
pain in 45 seconds and second degree burns within 3 minutes of
We believe that Professor Fay's recommendation should be seriously
considered by FERC and DOT. As a practical matter, it would be
virtually impossible to get a typical family out of their home
and into a vehicle without experiencing severe pain or first
or second degree burns within the zone between these two limits.
Evacuation of elderly persons and disabled persons would be even
more difficult without these persons experiencing severe burns.
The DEIR notes on page 4-196 that DOT examined this issue during
the rulemaking process that established the use of these criteria.
In their Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, DOT suggested
3.1 kw/m2 (1000 Btu/ft2-hr), lower than the current limit but
still above Dr. Fay's recommendation. However, the DEIS states
that, "following the public review period, it was determined
that the evidence and information supported the use of the 5kw/m2
(1,600Btu/ft2-hr) as the limit of direct human exposure.
While the EIS process may not be the forum for the revision of
DOT regulations, this issue is extremely important in the establishment
of thermal radiation zones and therefore on the acceptable level
of human exposure.
We therefore recommend that
the Supplemental Draft EIS explore this issue in more detail
with the goal of establishing acceptable thermal radiation zones
for the Weaver's Cove project.
The potential for collisions
with the Brightman Street Bridge have not been adequately discussed
in the DEIS.
High winds have the potential
of causing LNG tankers to collide with the Brightman Street Bridge.
As noted on page 2-8, the high freeboard of LNG vessels compared
to typical oil tankers "can adversely affect the maneuverability
of the ship, particularly at slow speed, such as during docking."
This effect would be magnified on the return trip, when the ship
would be empty and sitting higher in the water.
Weaver's Cove anticipates that the sides of the LNG ships would
come in contact with the fenders of the bridge (page 4-210) and
even suggests that they would keep spare fenders in storage for
such occasions. The Massachusetts Highway Department should be
consulted on whether this represents sound practice for this
The Supplemental Draft EIS/EIR
should provide more information on the movement of the tanker
through the new Brightman Street Bridge under various conditions
and should include the results of navigational simulation modeling
for high wind conditions.
The dredging plan in
the DEIS is inadequate and needs to be revised.
The DEIS describes a dredging
plan that will occur continuously for three years. We agree with
NOAA Fisheries that the project will result in "substantial
and unacceptable impacts on aquatic resources of national importance."
Because of insufficient inputs into the SSFATE model, the modeling
results underestimate the impacts on winter flounder spawning
conditions and dredge operational requirements. Among other factors,
the fate of winter flounder embryo development and the assumed
sediment loss from dredging operations have not been adequately
addressed in the model. This has resulted in the underestimating
of the impacts on essential fish habitats.
A Supplemental Draft EIS should
address the following issues in more detail:
Run the SSFATE model with
the correct inputs.
Review the 21-day development
period value for winter flounder, which does not allow for temperature
variability and delayed incubation periods. The model should be changed to reflect a
40-day incubation period, as recommended by NOAA Fisheries.
The DEIS states that a bucket
loss rate of .66 percent will occur; however, the use of this
loss rate underestimates the amount of suspended sediment that
will occur from dredging, given that the dredging will be more
maintenance than improvement. The applicant should use an estimate
of 2 percent to reflect this factor, as recommended by NOAA.
The estimate of 12 acres
of impact from dredging on winter flounder habitat is not accurate
and should be reviewed and revised. Weaver's Cove has not analyzed
the full range of impacts from the project on winter flounder,
and its analysis consistently underestimates the impact on this
Instead of year-round dredging
operations, the supplemental review should require that no water
silt-producing activity should occur between January 15th to
May 31st of each year.
Mitigation should be identified
for the loss of 11 acres of winter flounder habitat.
Mitigation should be identified
for the loss from filling operations of 1.15 acres of intertidal,
salt marsh and subtidal areas.
Because suspended sediment
in the water column has been underestimated, the potential impacts
on anadromous fishery resourced within the Taunton River have
been minimized. In order to avoid these impacts, the Supplemental
Draft EIS should review this issue and recommend that no dredging
work should occur from March 1st to July 31st of each year to
protect the upstream migrations of anadromous species such as
Alewife, Blueback Herring, Rainbow Smelt and American Shad. Downstream
migrations of these species should be protected by the cessation
of dredging operations from June 15th to October 31 of each year.
As noted in comments by the Army Corps of Engineers, the delay
in opening of the new Brightman Street Bridge will provide the
opportunity for delaying the dredging operation over a longer
span of years.
The DEIS states that the
dredging operations and the constant turbidity from ship traffic
will permanently affect 84 acres of quahog habitat. The Supplemental
Draft EIS should include a mitigation proposal that has been
reviewed and approved by the relevant state and federal agencies
before the preparation of the Final EIS.
Revise the dredging volumes
to reflect the recommended two-foot overdredge. Accurate estimates
of volumes of dredge material are necessary to identify reasonable
Weaver's Cove considers these
impacts to be "temporary;" however, 36 months of continuous
dredging operations and sediment disturbance is hardly temporary.
The Supplemental Draft EIS will provide an opportunity to review
a more accurate assessment of dredging impacts.
Dredging disposal impacts
and options were not adequately explored in the DEIS.
In particular, disposal of
2.5 million cubic yards of contaminated dredge material on the
former Shell Oil site needs to be more thoroughly reviewed, given
the potential to violate the Massachusetts Contingency Plan for
the site. This sediment deposition could affect the MCP due to
contaminants present in the material, including PCB's, chromium,
copper, lead, mercury and naphthalene. DEP is concerned that
the sediment being disposed at the Weaver's Cove site would be
more contaminated than the material currently at the site.
In addition, the options for the disposal of dredge material
need to be revisited, given the additional material that will
need to be disposed of due to the recommended two-foot overdredge
recommended by federal agencies.
The Supplemental Draft EIS
would provide an opportunity to review these issues and allow
further public comment on the findings.
Tanker exclusion zones
and bridge closings issues have not been adequately studied in
There appears to be a disconnect
between the need for tanker exclusion zones and a policy on bridge
closings in the DEIS. The horizontal exclusion zone established
by the US Coast Guard for LNG tankers is two miles in front of
the tanker, one mile to the rear and 3000 feet to the sides of
a ship. However, no vertical exclusion zone has yet been established,
a factor that would have implications for deciding on whether
to close all bridges as LNG tankers pass under them.
It appears to make little sense to have horizontal exclusion
zones measured in miles, when the distance from a ship to the
Pell, Mount Hope and Braga bridges will be a few feet. This issue
needs more study, and we agree with the comments of the Army
Corps of Engineers who recommend that the EIS include a determination
by the Coast Guard on the need for bridge closings and security
issues related to tankers traversing Narragansett Bay, Mount
Hope Bay and the Taunton River.
The Supplemental Draft EIS
should include the Coast Guard's assessment related to bridge
closings and should provide a more thorough review of security
issues as LNG vessels pass under bridges and negotiate the bays
and the river.
The location of the Fall
River ship channel and its effect on the protection of LNG vessels
has not been described in the DEIS.
Because the Fall River ship
channel is located close to the shoreline of the harbor (as close
as 600 feet in some instances), it would present a special challenge
to public safety agencies when providing protection to LNG vessels.
While the Coast Guard has established an exclusion zone of 3000
feet from the sides of LNG vessels, the shoreline will be well
within this limit for the five miles that the tanker will be
in the Fall River harbor. However, the DEIS does not describe
the security implications of this physical condition, even though
Green Futures and others have mentioned it prominently in our
Therefore, the Supplemental
Draft EIS should review this issue in great detail, since it
has enormous consequences on whether an adequate level of security
would be possible for LNG tankers under these physical circumstances
and on the effectiveness of tanker exclusion zones.
Terrorism as a real risk
has been minimized in the DEIS and needs more thorough review.
The treatment that FERC gives
to the terrorism threat to LNG facilities borders on the irresponsible.
The fact that there are many other hazardous facilities in the
US that may be subject to terrorist attack does not give comfort
to those residents who will be living within the thermal radiation
zones of the Weaver's Cove terminal or tankers. Just because
there are many existing terrorist targets does not mean that
we should create new ones that would be especially attractive
to terrorists because of the high fatality rate that would result
from an attack.
There is no way that a terrorist threat "can be managed"
(page 4-234) given the physical proximity of the Fall River ship
channel to the shoreline and the general vulnerability of LNG
facilities to motivated and determined terrorists.
Therefore, the Supplemental
Draft EIS should include a serious
assessment of the threat to LNG facilities from terrorist attacks
in the new post-9/11 environment, particularly those facilities
like Weaver's Cove that, if attacked, could result in high loss
issues are inadequately identified.
On page 4-146, the DEIS provides
a description of the socio-economic conditions in Fall River
that warrant it being considered as an environmental justice
community. However, instead of considering the impact of the
project on the city as a whole, the DEIS suggests that since
the project will be affecting both low-income areas as well as
higher-income areas, the project "would not disproportionately
impact only the environmental justice areas." This is bizarre
As the Attorney General states in his comments, "to the
extent that the agency is saying that the impacts will not be
'disproportionate' because they will impact both the poorest
areas of an economically depressed city and other areas of an
economically depressed city, then the conclusion that environmental
justice issues are not implicated is invalidIt is simply not
credible to conclude that the overall impacts of locating the
facility at Weaver's Cove will not be disproportionate on Fall
River, and FERC has established no credible basis for concluding
FERC should prepare a Supplemental
Draft EIS/EIR that includes a valid assessment of environmental
justice issues posed by the Weaver's Cove project.
Again, we strongly reiterate
our opinion that a Supplemental Draft EIS/EIR is absolutely necessary
because of the inadequacies of the Draft EIS. A Supplemental
Draft will provide an opportunity for FERC and Weaver's Cove
to respond to all of the public comments received and---most
importantly---for the public and public agencies to have an opportunity
to comment on the new information contained in the Supplemental
Thank you for your consideration
of these comments.
Timothy Bennett, President
Mayor Edward M. Lambert, Jr.
Senator Edward M. Kennedy
Senator John F. Kerry
Congressman Barney Frank
Congressman James McGovern
Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly
US Environmental Protection Agency
US Fish and Wildlife Service
Army Corps of Engineers
Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management Office
Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries
Massachusetts Riverways Program
ESS Group, Inc.
Weaver's Cove/Hess Energy LLC
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