Tuesday, November 17, 2009

LNG Court Decision on CRMC- Not the end for Hess

Yesterday's story in the Providence Journal by Gene Emery entitled "RI Council has no say on LNG Terminal in Mount Hope Bay" surprised many readers (read it here: http://www.projo.com/news/content/LNG_APPEALS_11-16-09_9AGFAOB_v7.38afa95.html ). The story reports on the decision of the Court Of Appeals, which affirmed that the RI Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) lost its opportunity to object to the project .

Some people who called and wrote to Save The Bay yesterday thought that the crazy Hess Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) proposal for Mount Hope Bay was dead of its own weight, and were stunned to see it clear another hurdle. Some were angry at CRMC for losing in this case, and even angrier at company officials for characterizing the Appeals Court Decision as an effective endorsement of the project.

Let's put it into perspective: The Hess LNG/Weaver's Cove proposal for a massive gas tanker platform and pipeline in the middle of Mount Hope Bay is FAR from a done deal. While RICRMC may have been sidelined by this decision, the Massachusetts equivalent, MACZM, is still actively challenging the project along with other Mass agencies and elected officials. The project still needs about 21 different approvals from Federal, State, and local agencies, the most significant of which revolve around an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the project that has yet to be released to the public.

We don't know for sure when the EIS will come out, but we expect it sometime in the next few months. When it is released, there will be public hearings and an open public comment period. The EIS is the public's best opportunity to weigh in and stop this thing.

As readers of this blog know, Save The Bay has long opposed this project based on its direct threats to Bay life and habitat, its unreasonable and unfair interference with other uses of the Bay, its damaging impacts on the Bay's coastal communites, and its negative impacts on the Bay economy. While a few people still buy Hess' spurious claims of job creation and lower gas prices, most, including the elected officials and Congressional delgations of both states, see the project as bad for the environment, bad for the economy, and unsafe for people who live and work on and around the Bay.

Over the coming weeks and months, we will step up our opposition, and activate our membership and networks to fight it with everything we've got. For more on what you can do, check out our website at http://www.savebay.org/NetCommunity/Page.aspx?pid=318 . Also, feel free to drop me an e-mail at jtorgan@savebay.org with any questions or comments. We've worked too hard for too many years to clean up Mount Hope Bay and Narragansett Bay to allow one private company to take it over for their exclusive financial gain. Thanks for your support, and never give up! We can win this. -JT

Monday, November 02, 2009

Declining Bird Populations of Narragansett Bay

I was struck by Mary Grady's story in this month's Rhode Island Monthly on declining marine bird populations on Narragansett Bay. Read it here: http://www.rimonthly.com/Rhode-Island-Monthly/November-2009/Bye-Bye-Birdies/

Here's an excerpt from the article:

"The numbers of several maritime bird species that breed in Narragansett Bay have dropped significantly in the last five to ten years, according to annual surveys conducted by the state Department of Environmental Management. Great egrets, for example, the tall, elegant white birds often seen foraging in shallow coves fringing the Bay, peaked at 251 nesting pairs in 2003, and in 2008 were down to 148 pairs. Their smaller relatives, the snowy egrets, showed an even steeper drop, from 330 pairs in 1979 to just fifty-three pairs in 2008."

These steep declines in Bay bird populations are alarming. The story discusses the various explanations for the decline, but no one really knows for sure why this is happening.

One theory I have is that it is related to menhaden populations. The numbers of juvenile menhaden, or peanut bunker, have declined dramatically in recent years. I'll bet that those comprise a major source of forage for wading birds like egrets and herons. Cormorants, which have continued to increase in number, can probably catch many other fish species more easily and in deeper water.

This story underscores the need to invest in environmental monitoring, including keeping track of bird and fish populations. It provides critical information to resource managers, and helps us to protect the diversity and health of the Bay and its connected systems. JT