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Massachusetts Legislation Would Require 5,000-Foot Buffer Zone Around LNG Terminals

A committee in Massachusetts' House of Representatives held a public hearing last week on a bill introduced by Rep. David B. Sullivan (D-Fall River) designed to derail the Weaver's Cove liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal, which has been proposed for location in Fall River by Amerada Hess and Poten & Partners.

The bill would require LNG import terminals sited in the state to have a 5,000-foot buffer zone from the center of the tank to the nearest residential home, school, hospital or business and would require LNG tankers to have a 1,500-foot clearance from the vessel's hull to the closest home, school, hospital or business. Sullivan said his bill was based on the Department of Energy's Sandia National Lab report, which warned that a worst case scenario terrorist attack on the LNG tanker could result in second degree burns on people more than a mile away from the tanker.

Sullivan said his bill is designed to protect the citizens of Massachusetts and to protect state's rights from a threat by Congress, which has included legislation in the comprehensive energy bill that would give FERC exclusive authority over the siting of LNG terminals.

Sullivan's bill went before the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security for a hearing on Tuesday. The committee now must decide what action to take.

The Weaver's Cove LNG terminal is on file at FERC but has not received federal permit. The terminal would take up 68 acres of the 73 acre site on the Taunton River feeding into Mount Hope Bay and Narragansett Bay about 50 miles south of Boston. FERC issued a draft environmental impact statement on the project in August 2004, but noted there was local opposition and the project would need to pass a Coastal Zone Consistency Review in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

The terminal would be capable of providing 800 MMcf/d of gas supply to New England, which has seen sharp gas demand growth in recent years mainly because of the construction of numerous gas-fired power plants. The $250 million LNG import terminal also would include capacity to store about 200,000 cubic meters of LNG.

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