LNG Home

Letter to FERC Re: Weaver's Cove
Green Futures

Green Futures
P.O. Box 144
Fall River, Massachusetts 02724-0144
(508) 673-9304

"Citizen action for a better community."

September 18, 2004

Magalie R. Salas, Secretary Secretary Ellen Roy Herzfelder
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Exec. Office Environmental Affairs
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 document."

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.

Further consideration 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 following reasons:

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.

Worst-case scenarios 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 Street Bridge.

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 Draft EIS.

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 virtually impossible.

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 continuous exposure.
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 new bridge.

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 species.

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 disposal alternatives.

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 the DEIS.

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 scoping comments.

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 of life.

Environmental justice 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 reasoning.
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 otherwise. "

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 Draft.

Thank you for your consideration of these comments.


Timothy Bennett, President
Green Futures

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
NOAA Fisheries
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

back to top