Mayor Opposes Regulatory Fast Track
Daniel Fowler, Herald New Staff
Reporter - 3/11/2004
Mayor Edward M. Lambert Jr. on Wednesday requested a hearing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to address Weaver Cove Energy's attempt to "fast track" the commission's review process on the proposed liquefied natural gas import terminal.
In a separate move, the mayor urged the company to withdraw its application to build the facility. According to Lambert, he sent a letter to the FERC asking for a hearing after he became aware that Weaver's Cove had asked the commission for a "preliminary determination regarding non-environmental issues by March 31, 2004" and a final order "granting the requested authorizations by September 15, 2004."
Weaver's Cove made the request in mid-December, but the mayor said it was only posted on the FERC Web site in late February. Lambert said that when he met with representatives from the FERC in October, they told him the review process would take a minimum of one year.
"I believe that the request from Weaver's Cove that FERC expedite their review process will most certainly be detrimental and at the expense of the need for a complete and unbiased review process that looks at public safety, environmental, economic and all other potential aspects and impacts of this project on the city of Fall River," Lambert said. The mayor said he was particularly upset about the company's attempt to hurry the process because they have been encouraging the City Council and local residents to wait for the FERC to issue its findings before opposing the LNG facility. "I think this is the most egregious of tactics I,ve seen -- getting the community to slow their debate while trying to speed up the process," Lambert said. "I feel (Weaver's Cove) is trying to buy this city off. They come in waving $3 million and as a low-income community" they think "we will throw our arms around them and say come in."
The facility will generate $3 million in taxes for the city annually.
"I believe that if a thorough review process does take place, that FERC will gather sufficient facts to come to a conclusion that they have no choice but to reject the Weaver's Cove LNG project outright."
Lambert decided to send a letter to Weaver's Cove CEO Gordon Shearer Wednesday asking the company to withdraw "any and all plans to develop a LNG terminal in the city of Fall River," after the City Council went on the record in opposition of the facility at Tuesday's council meeting. The council voted 7-2 to oppose the facility. "In the aftermath of a strong affirmative vote in opposition, it reaffirms what we have been saying about this community's opposition" to the facility, Lambert said.
In his letter to Shearer, Lambert suggests that "locations away from a congested, urban, residential neighborhood or an offshore facility would be more appropriate alternatives" than the proposed site on North Main Street. "I am imploring you to do the honorable thing and to withdraw your application," Lambert said in his letter. "I would hope that in the spirit of being a good neighbor, you would recognize and acknowledge the significant community opposition to this project." Though Lambert does not necessarily expect Weaver's Cove to withdraw its application, he said it was his responsibility to at least officially ask the company to halt its plan. "I don't know that we are going to get a favorable response, but it's my job to communicate with" Shearer.
At Tuesday's council meeting, Weaver's Cove spokesman James Grasso said it was "standard" procedure to ask the FERC for a preliminary determination regarding non-environmental issues. "There is no standard practice," Lambert said. "FERC hasn't sited one of these facilities in 30 years."
Grasso did not return a call seeking comment.