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Speaker ignites LNG debate
[September 05, 2009]

Speaker ignites LNG debate

Sep 04, 2009 (Savannah Morning News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- In a forum that was part information and part inspiration, the Attorney General of Rhode Island Patrick Lynch gave hope to opponents of a local liquefied natural gas terminal.

Lynch and his former assistant Paul Roberti told a group of about 50 people Thursday at the Hilton Savannah DeSoto Hotel how they successfully fought off attempts to re-open the Fields Point LNG facility in Providence. The nonprofit Citizens for Clean Air and Water, longtime opponents of the expansion of the Southern LNG terminal on Elba, sponsored the event.

"We have tilted at windmills a long time in Rhode Island and it's not a done deal," Lynch said. "If you're creative, firm, vigilant and have a sustained effort you can bring people to the table." LNG is super-cooled methane that's shipped to import facilities such as Savannah's Elba Island on huge, domed tankers. Though the industry prides itself on its safety record, many are concerned with the safety of the shipment and storage of such large quantities of fuel, particularly in urban areas.

Even excluding doomsday scenarios that predict one to six-mile disaster zones around a major LNG fire, Lynch argues against the fuel because of day-to-day security requirements. Incoming and outgoing shipments of LNG require a federal security "exclusion" zone of one mile in front of the moving ship, two miles behind it and 1,000 feet to either side. That disrupts other shipping as well as recreational boating. It also decreases waterfront property values and can hurt waterfront businesses, Roberti said.

Lynch and Roberti drew on experts in and out of their community to draw a picture of expected development in Providence and how the proposed LNG facility could impede it. Those concerned about Elba could do the same, he said.

"Forty years from now, you're gonna say you made the right decisions if you fight long enough and are forward looking," Lynch said.

Another of their winning strategies had a connection to Elba, too. One of the reasons the Federal Energy Regulatory Agency denied KeySpan Energy Corp. its certification in Fields Point, Lynch said, was that the design of its existing tank, with a valve at the bottom, no longer met current regulatory standards. KeySpan pointed unsuccessfully to similar tanks that had been grandfathered into use, such as Elba's original tanks.

CCAW's leadership wants the Elba facility relocated offshore.

"My goal is to get rid of it," said vice president Steve Willis.

Roberti and Lynch cautioned that a more realistic fight may be against the planned sixth tank at the terminal, the one for which the company recently requested a three-year extension for its in-service date to 2015.

Bill Baerg, spokesman for Southern LNG's parent company El Paso, said the last tank is fully certified already, and that won't be affected by its request for the delay.

To see more of the Savannah Morning News, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2009, Savannah Morning News, Ga.

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