Sullivan to outline case against LNG terminal
by James Finlaw, Herald
News staff reporter, 1/19/2004
Since Weaver's Cove Energy held public hearings in July showcasing its plans for a $250 million liquefied natural gas import terminal in the city's North End, two distinct views of the project have emerged. Weaver's Cove officials have touted the project as a state-of-the-art facility that would be safe, secure, environmentally friendly and a boon for New England's increasing natural gas needs. The project's critics have condemned the terminal, which would be built on the city's waterfront at the former Shell Oil site, as a safety hazard that is potentially dangerous for city residents and inhabitants of surrounding communities.
State Rep. David B. Sullivan, D-Fall River, has opposed Weaver's Cove's plans since the company hosted the public hearings at the Venus de Milo Restaurant in Swansea in July. He believes the LNG facility's proposed location is too close to many North End residences, and fears that a terrorist attack on the terminal, or on one of the huge supertankers that would ferry LNG to the site each week, could create a deadly fire that could injure or kill residents in Fall River and Somerset.
In an effort to inform the public of the potential dangers of the project, Sullivan is inviting residents and local and state officials to a special LNG meeting at Bristol Community College on Thursday. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the college's G Building.
The heart of the meeting will be a presentation by Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Emeritus James A. Fay. Fay is a mechanical and environmental engineering expert who has issued reports on the dangers of LNG shipping in Boston Harbor, Narragansett Bay and in Fall River. Fay's work concludes that a terrorist attack on the 185-foot-high, 280-foot-wide LNG storage tank planned for the Weaver's Cove site, or an attack on one of the 940-foot LNG tankers that would service the tank each week, could cause a fire or deadly LNG vapor cloud that would threaten residents and property located near the facility.
Sullivan said he believes the
meeting is needed to provide "balance" to the LNG debate.
A GRIM REPORT:
Fay's report was brought to
the public's attention in September, when Sullivan released it
to the press. The four-page report concluded that a bomb attack
or serious accident on an LNG tanker could cause a fire that
would quickly engulf the tanker in flame. The report states the
fire would spread rapidly across the water,
Weaver's Cove officials have countered Fay's criticisms by pointing to the LNG industry's safety record. There has never been a major fire involving an LNG tanker, and incidents involving failed LNG storage tanks are few and far between. The most serious LNG fires involving loss of life date from the 1940s, when tanks were of poor construction and current safety and monitoring technologies were not available.
When making his case against
the project, Sullivan also points to a report on LNG safety presented
to Congress by the Congressional Research Service in September.
The document stated that "LNG tankers and land-based facilities
are vulnerable to terrorism." He dismissed the notion that
Fall River would be safe because it is an unlikely location for
a terrorist attack.
While the congressional report did cite a number of concerns about the safety of LNG import terminals and LNG tankers, it also noted that terrorist attacks on domestic LNG facilities have never been carried out, and highlighted the industry's strong safety record.
While questions remain and
conflicting arguments abound regarding the true dangers posed
by LNG, Sullivan said his opposition to the proposed Weaver's
Cove site was cemented in September when he watched an LNG supertanker
dock at an LNG import terminal in Everett. Whenever the tankers
enter Boston Harbor en route to the Everett facility, they are
escorted by a flotilla of public safety vessels. In September,
Sullivan boarded a State Police patrol boat that was part
The representative said the
state and federal agencies charged with reviewing Weaver's Cove's
application for construction should nix the Fall River location.
He said the agencies, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
and the state Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, should
instead encourage the creation of offshore LNG terminals, or
push for LNG terminals in thinly populated, remote
The informational hearing is scheduled to be held at 7 p.m. in Bristol Community Colleges G Building. Sullivan will moderate the event, which will feature a PowerPoint presentation by Fay. Sullivan said local and state officials have been invited to the event, and he encouraged public participation. The meeting will end with a question-and-answer session.