Thursday, November 16, 2006

Projo Story on LNG Hearings


The first RIDEM hearing on Weaver's Cove LNG's happened on Tuesday night. There's another hearing on 11/20. See the attached Providence Journal story by Alex Kuffner, also available on www.projo.com:

Lynch asks DEM to put a stop to dredging plan

01:00 AM EST on Wednesday, November 15, 2006

By Alex KuffnerJournal Staff Writer

TIVERTON — Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch last night called on the state Department of Environmental Management to suspend its review of an application to dredge a section of Mount Hope Bay that would clear the way for tanker ships to reach a proposed liquefied natural gas terminal in Fall River.

At a public hearing on the dredging plan at Tiverton High School, Lynch, a staunch opponent of the construction of the $250-million terminal, called the application submitted by Weaver’s Cove Energy and Hess LNG inadequate and said the companies had shown “callous disrespect” and “gross disregard for officials in the state” and its coastal residents.

He said that in their application to dredge up to 230,000 cubic yards from 33 acres in the Rhode Island portion of the Bay, the companies had failed to provide essential information about the potential negative impact on water quality and marine life.

“What do they do? At best, provide misinformation,” he said to DEM officials and an audience of 50 people from Rhode Island and Massachusetts, most of whom had come to speak against the proposal.

In a statement released before the hearing, Lynch urged the DEM to hold a separate evidentiary hearing on the dredging application.

“The general public, like RIDEM, deserves a response to these legitimate and serious ecological issues, and unless the applicant can be forthright about the known consequences of its plans, the RIDEM should not be wasting its time, and that of the public’s, reviewing an incomplete application,” he said in the statement.

The project companies have received approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee to build an LNG facility on 73 acres in Fall River’s north end fronting the Taunton River. The terminal would be supplied by tankers traveling north through Rhode Island waters. However, the 35-foot-deep shipping channel in Mount Hope Bay and the Taunton River is too shallow for the massive ships.

Weaver’s Cove and Hess propose deepening a seven-mile stretch to 37 feet and they need permission from local and state agencies to move ahead. The bulk of the project would be carried out in Massachusetts. In total, the companies would remove 2.6 million cubic yards of material from 191 acres in the Bay and river.

The companies say they would limit dredging during the three-year project to seven months a year from mid-June to mid-January to minimize damage to fish habitats.

Of the 15 people who submitted comments last night, 14 raised objections. Nobody from Weaver’s Cove or Hess spoke. The lone supporter of the proposal was Don Church, a retired Rhode Island boat pilot, who said Fall River’s economy would suffer without an adequate shipping channel.

The many opponents cited the harmful effects of disturbing what they said are buried toxic sediments that include zinc, copper and mercury and the potentially devastating effects of dredging on dwindling populations of winter flounder, herring, tautog, Atlantic sturgeon and other fish.

John Torgan, of Save the Bay, said dredging could exacerbate periods of hypoxia in Mount Hope Bay, cutting off oxygen to fish and shellfish. He and others told the DEM that the Taunton River, Mount Hope Bay and Narragansett Bay are part of a single ecosystem and asked them to also consider the dredging work in Massachusetts when reviewing the companies’ application.

Eric Hesher, of Portsmouth, said Rhode Island waters would suffer if buried pollutants around Fall River are dug up.

“Anything that’s up there is going to come down here,” he said.

State Rep. Raymond E. Gallison Jr., D-Bristol, Portsmouth, went one step further than Lynch’s request to suspend the dredging application. Gallison said Weaver’s Cove and Hess have no grounds to apply for a dredging permit because of a recently ratified state law he introduced that effectively prohibits LNG tankers from entering Rhode Island waters. The companies have said the law is unconstitutional.

Paul Roberti, a lawyer in Lynch’s office, said he and others would not give up their fight.
“The one thing we have are our natural resources,” he said. “They are not for sale. We will fight this to the end. This project will never happen.”

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