Monday, September 14, 2009

Ken Marshall/Cara Cromwell Pro Jo LNG Op-Ed in todays paper

Finally today  - The Providence Journal prints the LNG op ed piece by Ken Marshall and Cara Cromwell — and no less important a month after it was written. The link for the piece was too long to work so the article is posted below in its entirety.
Tell Both Sides of the LNG Story

Submitted to the Providence Journal
August 13, 2009

Kenneth Marshall, Chairman, Bristol Town Council
Cara Cromwell, President, Save Bristol Harbor

We read with surprise your August 11th editorial entitled “Lift for LNG.” Our surprise was caused not only by the Journal’s apparent support for this horribly misguided and ill-conceived proposal, but also for some of the inaccuracies the editorial contained. We appreciate this opportunity to set the record straight and provide your readers with a broader view of the proposed project.

We want to make clear that we are not opposed to truly offshore LNG facilities and have offered our support for a plan that moves this facility out into the ocean. However, we cannot – and will not -- sit idly by as our state’s greatest resource – our bays - are turned over to a private corporation in a for-profit endeavor. We strenuously disagree with your editorial’s assumption that this LNG is needed in New England – and/or that building this facility will help bring energy prices down.

The truth is that if Weaver’s Cove is ever built, it will be unnecessary and underutilized. Between the LNG facilities in Everett, New Brunswick and the new offshore Gloucester facility, all of New England’s LNG needs will be met, now and well into the future. It’s important to note that while LNG is a “clean” fuel, it takes a tremendous amount of “dirty” energy to transport it here from Trinidad and Tobago, so as the U.S. government takes steps to lower carbon emissions, we will favor Canadian LNG over other sources, making the proposed facility a white elephant.

Weaver’s Cove Energy first proposed bringing LNG tankers into a Fall River terminal in 2003. The project was not derailed by “wildly overstated” safety fears (as your editorial suggests), but by U.S. Coast Guard Captain Roy Nash who indicated that LNG vessels could not safely transit the route, with particular concern for the waterways in and around the new and old Brightman Street Bridges.

Undeterred, Weaver’s Cove scrapped that plan and created an “in-bay” berthing platform where LNG tankers – 910 feet in length – could offload their cargo in the middle of Mount Hope Bay. The proposed berthing facility would be about an acre in size and two stories high. In the new plan, LNG would be offloaded and moved through a 4.5- mile pipeline to the facility in Fall River. While your editorial alludes to the long safety record of LNG, it must be noted that this 4.5-mile pipeline will utilize a new and untested technology that has been the subject of some concern in the engineering community.

We also want to make clear that our opposition to the Weaver’s Cove plan is centered primarily on environmental and way-of-life issues. The enormous berthing facility would claim 73 acres of winter flounder habitat and the dredging needed for the facility and the pipeline would stir up centuries of toxins that sit on the bottom of Mount Hope Bay, polluting a clean but fragile ecosystem.

Current estimates from Weaver’s Cove indicate that there would be 140 transits to and from the facility every year. During those transits, all of us who use the water – for commercial or recreation purposes -- will be removed from the LNG route between Newport and Somerset for a period of time. This would include visiting cruise ships that are critical to our tourism and hospitality economic generator for the State of Rhode Island. The exclusion zone established by the Coast Guard will stretch for miles, essentially shutting down narrow passages in the Bay for everyone except for the gigantic LNG ship. The State Police and RI Turnpike and Bridge Authority have stated that these transits may close the Mount Hope and Pell Bridges for up to forty minutes at a time with no notice given. Our public safety officials work closely with our neighbors in Portsmouth and in an emergency, we cannot be cut off from key routes to Newport Hospital and Charlton Memorial.

Furthermore, should this proposal go through, state and local governments will be forced to shoulder some of the financial responsibility for public safety. Whether an accident actually occurs, we must be prepared and our employees must be properly trained. Bristol currently has a volunteer fire department. Providing salary and benefits to a department that is capable of providing support to an LNG facility would cost taxpayers upwards of $6 million per year and place our public service family and friends in an unnecessary and potentially dangerous and unprecedented situation. This kind of a burden – for a facility that we don’t want or need – is excessive and unfair for Rhode Island as a whole.

We are fortunate to live in this great state, so rich in beauty and natural resources. As community leaders we see no mission more important than protecting our environment, preserving our way of life, and ensuring that future generations will be able to enjoy what we have passed down. We encourage all Rhode Islanders who love this state, enjoy her waters, and believe as we do that our bays belong to all of us and not a for-profit corporation to join with us in opposition to the Weaver’s Cove facility in Mount Hope Bay.

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