Mayor: City is
ready for LNG fight
Jessica Resnick-Ault, Providence
Journal Staff Writer
Led by the mayor, 200 turn
out to protest a liquefied natural gas facility proposed for
the city's North End during a site visit by federal engineers.
While federal officials
were in the city to evaluate a liquefied natural gas terminal
proposed for the city's North End, residents took to the streets
in opposition. "If it's a street fight we're in for, we
will have a street fight like no one has seen before," facility
opponent Mayor Edward M. Lambert Jr. told the crowd.
Engineers from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission came
to inspect the former Shell Oil Refinery - the site proposed
for the liquefied natural gas terminal.
The plan calls for building a 200-foot storage tank that would
hold LNG, primarily methane gas, in its compact liquid state
at 260 degrees below zero. The facility would receive LNG shipments
about once a week, and would distribute the gas by truck and
pipeline, according to project developer Weaver's Cove Energy,
a subsidiary of New York-based Poten and Partners.
The visit was scheduled to provide a chance for the engineers
and contractors to examine the site, and to give the public a
chance to view it. Beyond a chance to survey the project, the
four federal engineers got a fast dose of community spirit. About
200 protesters stood in the road. They wore signs declaring "NO
LNG," "LNG is not for me," and "Location's
Mayor Lambert stood on a table, instructing the crowd:"We
will act like a community acting in its best interests."
He told them to be respectful, but to make their voices heard
by the federal commission.
Other frequent opponents, including City Councilor Joseph Camara,
Somerset Selectman Patrick O'Neill, and state Rep. David Sullivan
joined Lambert in speaking out against the project.
Neighbors of the proposed site, John Keppel and Michael Miozza,
also stepped forward, declaring opposition to the project. They
both focused on safety concerns raised by importing the flammable
liquid to an urban area.
CEO Gordon Shearer has said that if the entire facility was attacked
or an accident occurred, the storage tank could catch fire, bursting
into flames like the world's "largest Roman candle."
Miozza and Keppel recounted the analogy. "Look at the hillside
that flame would go into," Keppel said, gesturing toward
the land, dotted with schools and houses, that lies just across
the highway from the site.
The spirit of opposition continued through the afternoon, as
the public joined the commission officials on a tour of the 73-acre
proposed site. (The site, reported to be 68 acres, is shown by
the latest land surveys to contain 5 additional acres, according
to Larry Brown, an environmental engineer consulting with the
commission on the project.) But regardless of the size of the
property, Lambert and other opponents said it is simply not large
enough to contain this sort of facility, and does not provide
a large enough buffer from nearby residences in case of an emergency.
Throughout the visit, they questioned Leon Bowdoin, Weaver's
Cove vice president for operations, as he led the three-hour
tour. Bowdoin brought the crowd across what is now largely open
dirt, spotted with three old fuel tanks from the former refinery.
He said the tanks, and all of the other structures will be removed.
Bowdoin showed the crowd where the new tank will be built, and
where fill, dredged from the river, will be used to create a
small hill. He outlined the location of the future dock, where
the boats may unload LNG, just across the river from the Montaup
But where Bowdoin and other Weaver's Cove executives saw a future
fuel facility, some residents saw other possibilities. Walking
across the property, John Keppel said the land could be used
to provide the city with much-needed open space. "This puts
Fall River back into a 19th century industrial mode," the
history teacher said, gesturing to the mills that stand just
beyond the property line, relics of a past industrial age.
Bowdoin and Weaver's Cove CEO Gordon Shearer maintained that
the property is a contaminated brownfield site, and is sited
The commission engineers offered the public little feedback as
they joined them in the walk across the site. When Lambert tried
to direct a question about shipping commerce to the commission,
Shearer stepped forward instead. Shearer said cruise ships would
not be affected by the arrival of LNG ships, which generally
enter the harbor unannounced for security reasons. Commission
engineer Bob Arvedland stepped forward, finally. "The Coast
Guard and FERC both take it into account, more the Coast Guard
Somerset resident James Hart asked the commission and Weaver's
Cove officials about the required dredging's effects on quahogs
in the river. But their answers were not enough to quell his
concerns. "I live within a mile of the facility. I don't
want you here. Why are you here?," he said, standing back
and shouting directly at the company's president. No complete
answer was given.
The commission engineers emphasized they were there merely to
gather information about the site, and not to take public comments.
Chris Zerby, of the commission, said the panel had already heard
many of the public safety, environmental and economic questions
posed by residents yesterday.
Despite the presence of federal commission members on the tour,
Keppel said he and other residents are not satisfied with the
agency's involvement. "I didn't see...an executive branch
agency checking out a company," Keppel said skeptically,
saying the agency had not analyzed or critiqued the proposed
Zerby maintained that he and most of the other engineers had
previously visited the site and surrounding neighborhood, and
that this tour was merely a chance for additional engineers to
check out the site before today's technical conference. Today's
conference, scheduled for the Venus de Milo in Swansea, is not
open to the public.
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