Regulators Approve Liquefied Natural Gas Terminal in Massachusetts Town
WASHINGTON Federal regulators said Thursday they won't reconsider their approval of a liquefied natural gas import terminal in the heart of Fall River, Mass., though city and state officials say it would pose a safety risk.
Opponents of the facility said they would ask a federal court to block the project, the focus of one of the most contentious debates over LNG development in the country.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the proposed Weaver's Cove Energy terminal in June, concluding that safety concerns about the terminal and tanker traffic could be mitigated.
City officials asked the commission to reconsider. The response was a 2-1 decision Thursday in which the commission stood by its earlier approval.
The Cove project was the eighth LNG import terminal approved by the commission since 2003. Congress recently enacted energy legislation that gives the agency broader power to approve such sites over state and local opposition.
Liquefied gas imports now account for only a small fraction of total natural gas use, but are expected to grow substantially. Currently there are four import terminals. More than 40 proposals have arisen, though not all the projects are expected to be built.
To reach Weaver's Cove, tankers will have to use the Taunton River, which cuts through the heart of Fall River and under several bridges.
"The project is incredibly unsafe," said Fall River Mayor Edward Lambert, who attended the commission hearing. He said a legal challenge to the commission's decision was planned. "We think we have a strong case," the mayor said.
Commission chairman Joe Kelliher, who voted for the project, said the approval included adequate safety standards and required security measures to reduce the potential risk of a terrorist attack on incoming tankers.
"Our actions today demonstrate our commitment to high safety standards," Kelliher said. He said New England "sorely needs additional gas supplies and a strong gas infrastructure."
Joining Kelliher in support of the project was commissioner Nora Mead Brownell. Commissioner Suedeen Kelly voted against approval, as she did last June, arguing it would damage the environment.
Separately, the commission rejected KeySpan Corp.'s attempt to resurrect plans for an expanded LNG terminal in Providence, R.I.
KeySpan had asked regulators to reconsider their decision to turn down the company's plan. KeySpan said it would consider filing an amended application for upgrading its Providence facility in the wake of FERC's decision.
State and local officials in Massachusetts and Rhode Island have strongly opposed both projects, which are about 18 miles apart on separate sections of Narragansett Bay.
Source: Associated Press