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RI Attorney General Files Another Lawsuit Against KeySpan LNG Terminal

Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch fired another shot last Thursday in the heated legal battle that has developed over KeySpan Energy's plan to convert an existing liquefied natural gas (LNG) peak shaving facility (formerly Algonquin LNG) in Providence into a 525 MMcf/d LNG import terminal.

Lynch, a longtime opponent of the project, filed his second lawsuit against it, arguing that it would trespass on state land, pollute the water and hurt fish populations.

Lynch told the Providence Superior Court that because KeySpan needs to drive piles into a 450 square foot area of the bed of the Providence River on state land to support a berth for ship deliveries the company must get approval from the General Assembly to do the work. "This is a state issue. This is our state land, and you just can't run us over in this process," Lynch told The Associated Press.

The complaint asks the judge to force KeySpan to gain state approval for the project. The suit also claims the pile driving would release contaminants on the bed of Narragansett Bay, and argues that a potential spill at the site would pollute surface water and groundwater.

It's Lynch's latest attempt to derail the project. In March he filed a lawsuit in federal court, claiming Rhode Island should have the final decision on the project based on underwater sovereignty issues.

Lynch's first lawsuit came only a couple weeks after KeySpan filed its own complaint asking a federal court to decide how the Coastal Resources Management Council, a state marine oversight body, should treat its application for the Providence terminal.

The back-and-forth lawsuits mirror the ongoing dispute that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has been having with California regulators over who has jurisdiction over an LNG terminal planned for the Port of Long Beach, CA.

FERC is still considering whether to approve plans to expand the Providence facility. Multiple state and local officials oppose the Providence project as well as plans for an LNG terminal in Fall River, MA.

Rhode Island Gov. Donald L. Carcieri has vowed that his state would fight the KeySpan lawsuit, saying it seeks to block the state's Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) from "exercising its federally stipulated jurisdiction" to review the KeySpan project to determine its consistency with the state's Coastal Resources Management Plan.

Meanwhile, FERC says it has exclusive jurisdiction over terminal siting and believes New England needs one or two LNG import terminals to provide gas supply reliability.

A delegation led by Sens. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) and Jack Reed (D-RI), and Reps. Patrick Kennedy and James Langevin, both Democrats from Rhode Island, as well as Lynch and Cicilline met with FERC Chairman Pat Wood on March 17 at FERC's headquarters in Washington, DC, to discuss the proposed Providence terminal. They apparently made no progress in ironing out their differences.

In the meantime, grassroots opposition to LNG in New England continues to grow. During the week a crowd at a meeting Tuesday night of the Warren Town Council listened as representatives from The Coalition for Responsible Siting of LNG Facilities and the City of Fall River described what they said would be the impact of siting a terminal in Fall River.

"A tanker fire alone would cause as many as 50,000 casualties," coalition member Alfred Lima said according to the Providence Journal. Lima characterized the LNG storage units at Fall River as containing the energy equivalent of 84 atomic bombs and the tankers as holding the energy equivalent of 63 atomic bombs.

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