City Decries LNG Plan
James Finlaw, Herald New Staff
Reporter - 1/27/2004
More than 130 area residents packed the community room at the Fire Department's Commerce Drive headquarters on Monday night to air their concerns about Weaver's Cove Energy's plans to build a liquefied natural gas import terminal on the city's waterfront in the North End.
Hosted by Mayor Edward M. Lambert Jr., the meeting was held so local residents could speak with city officials about Weaver's Cove's plans to construct a $250 million LNG import terminal on 68 acres of land at the former Shell Oil site off North Main Street. Lambert and the members of an LNG task force he put together last year to study Weaver's Cove's proposal fielded a variety of questions from the public and urged them to voice their opposition to the project.
"We simply wanted to let you know what the city has done to oppose the project, and how you can oppose it also," Lambert told the group at the meeting's start. He implored the residents to send their comments on the proposed terminal to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the state Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, the lead federal and state agencies charged with overseeing and permitting the project. Lambert also asked them to express their displeasure with the proposal by contacting their U.S. congressmen, U.S. senators, state legislators, Gov. Mitt Romney and local officials.
Over the course of the two-hour
meeting, the crowd peppered Lambert and the task force with questions
about Weaver's Cove's plans, and asked what they could do to
try to halt the project. The city presented the residents with
handouts outlining the history of Weaver's Cove's proposal and
the city's main objections to it.
Citizens speak out
The residents' main concerns
lay with the safety of the project. Fears abounded of a potential
fire caused by the escape of fuel from the proposed terminal's
185-foot-high LNG storage tank. Residents also cited reservations
regarding a similar leak or fire from one of the 940-foot-long
LNG tankers that would supply the tank with gas each week. The
residents, concerns and questions ran a wide gamut, with safety
and the project's impact on property values and the local economy
at the top of the list. They also expressed fear that the company
would take land by eminent domain, but were assured by Lambert
that only the FERC could take land in that fashion.
Everett is home to one of four
LNG import terminals in the country. When LNG shipments are delivered
by tanker to the Everett site via Boston Harbor, the Tobin Bridge
is shut down to traffic as a safety precaution. Those in the
room feared the weekly arrival of tankers in Mount Hope Bay would
prompt regular closures of the Brightman Street and Braga bridges.
Michelle Arpa of North Main
Street lives near Weaver's Cove's proposed LNG terminal. She
said company officials have offered to pay her 20 percent more
than the value of her home to buy her property. She said her
neighbors living on the other side of North Main Street, adjacent
to the proposed LNG site, have been offered 120 percent more
than the value of their properties.
The FERC has set a Jan. 30 deadline for public comment on Weaver's Cove's application for permission to construct the terminal. The FERC, the state, the Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers, among other federal agencies, will then review the application and the comments for several months before rendering a decision. Lambert said the task force will send the city's concerns, along with those posed by residents, to the agency by the deadline.
Resident Joseph Carvalho plans to make the government aware of his concerns about the project and said all city residents should do the same. "This is the one issue they should all be united on and all take up arms against. This is just a terrible thing for the city at this time," he said.
Preparing for a fight
The superintendent of the Fall River Country Club, Tom Ohlson, said he was concerned about the impact the company's plans could have on the country club and the area's golfers. Besides calling for the creation of the terminal, Weaver's Cove's plans require the installation of two gas pipelines to connect the terminal with the nation's main north to south natural gas delivery system -- the Algonquin pipeline. Ohlson said one of the connecting pipes would pass directly beneath the golf course. "One of the pipelines runs right through the seventh hole of the golf course. Apparently, they have a right of way and an easement through our golf course," he said. "A 17-hole golf course isn't much good for golfers. I'm surprised this company didn't notify the club they'd be digging up our property."
Lambert told the group the
city has compiled a list of comments and concerns that it wants
the government to force Weaver's Cove to address. He acknowledged
that the city is fighting an uphill battle in its attempts to
halt or derail a project that is in line with President Bush's
energy policies, but said the city must make the effort. "I
don't think we can take the attitude that there is nothing we
can do. This group of residents was pretty well informed and
they're going to contact their congressional delegates and contact
the governor," said Lambert.
Lambert invited residents to
become a part of the task force, though he urged that only a
fraction of those in attendance do so. In the end, 17 residents
signed a sheet indicating their interest in joining the group.