Will Richmond, Herald New Staff
Reporter - 9/23/2004
FALL RIVER -- City officials
joined together in lambasting the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's
draft environmental impact study in a series of comments released
For reasons specific
to their departments, Department of Health and Human Services
Director Michael J. Coughlin, Planning Director James K. Harnett,
Police Chief John M. Souza, acting Fire Department Chief David
L. Thiboutot and the city Board of Health all filed comments
that say the siting of a liquefied natural gas terminal in Fall
River does not make sense.
"The conclusion is that it should not be approved,"
Coughlin said Wednesday.
The deadline for filing comments on the FERC draft was Monday
following a 45-day comment period.
The respective directors listed issues such as bridge closures,
public safety, a population too close to the proposed facility,
environment and socioeconomics as reasons why the project does
not fit in Fall River.
One aspect that each of the department leaders mentioned in their
comments was the concern over public safety.
"From a public safety view, there are red flags up and down
the line," Coughlin said.
He pointed to the possibility of an accident or terrorist attack
as well as problems with providing adequate emergency services
to residents east of the Taunton River.
"In the event of an accident or terrorist attack, the LNG
terminal poses a direct threat to approximately 8,000 residents
of Fall River and Somerset who live within a one-mile radius
of the terminal," Coughlin wrote.
He said that the board's comments were derived from the FERC
report, research and talks with local health officials.
In Harnett's comments he notes that more than 90,000 vehicles
travel within a mile of the proposed site daily, and that 150,000
vehicles a day could be affected by bridge closures on the Braga
and Brightman Street bridges.
"Delays or closure of any of these transportation routes
would severely restrict access to local hospitals and overburden
alternative routes," Harnett commented.
Public safety officials continued to beat the drum for securing
safety for their constituents.
Souza wrote that, in the event of a catastrophic event at the
site, there "is no possibility that we have the resources
to respond adequately to assure safety and well-being" to
the residents in the area.
Souza also wrote that his department would have difficulty providing
security for tankers traveling along the approximately 5 miles
of Fall River waterfront.
"We would not have the ability to assess that the waterfront
was free and clear of threats along this entire route each time
a tanker made a delivery," Souza said.
Thiboutot's concerns included that in the event of a vapor cloud
release there would not be sufficient time to evacuate the residents
that live within one mile of the site.
The two public safety directors joined the other officials who
wrote that, in their opinions, the North Main Street location
is an unsuitable site for the terminal.
Along with the public safety issues, Coughlin said that placing
the LNG facility in Fall River is a detriment to everything that
city officials are trying to do to improve the overall quality
of life for residents and visitors.
Coughlin said that he felt that the addition of the LNG terminal
would be another project that was unfairly being placed in Fall
River because of its reputation as being a low-income area.
Coughlin writes in comments submitted by the Board of Health
that demographic and socioeconomic indicators confirm that Fall
River is a disadvantaged area.
"It's a disproportionate burden that is placed on us because
we're viewed as a less-than-average city," Coughlin said.
"That's not fair."
He also pointed to the recent Healthy City Fall River initiative
that aims to provide services and improvement projects throughout
the city as one of the means that the city is using to improve
"I'm not sure that FERC considered the Healthy City initiative,"
Coughlin said. "It speaks to the ignorance of Weaver's Cove
and FERC as we try to move away from our industrial past and
into the 21st century. This report just undermines our efforts."
Mayor Edward M. Lambert Jr. echoed many of the comments made
by the department heads in his own comments to FERC.
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