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Massachusetts Democrat Calls Weaver's Cove Revised Plan 'Dumb' and 'Dangerous'

March 27, 2006
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A new proposal by Weaver's Cove Energy LLC to use smaller tankers to transport liquefied natural gas (LNG) up the Taunton River in order to circumvent a legal barrier to the Fall River, MA, import terminal project is both "dumb" and "dangerous," said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), who last year erected the barrier that the company is now trying to bypass.

McGovern and Massachusetts' Democrat Barney Frank renewed their attack on the Fall River terminal project after reviewing a recent letter from the U.S. Coast Guard to Weaver's Cove Energy, which raised concerns about increased LNG tanker traffic on the Taunton River and over whether the vessels would be able to safely navigate the existing opening of the Brightman Street Bridge.

"The letter [from the Coast Guard] confirms what we have been saying all along, that Fall River represents the wrong project in the wrong place for a major LNG facility," said Rep. Frank. "As clearly pointed out in the Coast Guard letter, there is no room for error on the Taunton River and any error could be tragic. I agree New England has a need for LNG off-loading facilities, but Fall River is not the place."

Weaver's Cove Energy's proposal to use smaller tankers "is not a minor modification -- it's a major revision to their plans," McGovern said. He called on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to "go back to the beginning and review this misguided LNG proposal with a meaningful emphasis on safety and security." FERC conditionally approved the LNG project last July (NGI, July 4, 2005).

In its March 13 letter to Weaver's Cove Energy CEO Gordon Shearer, the Coast Guard wrote that while the proposed LNG tanker transit "may be feasible, the necessary favorable ambient conditions for safe passage through this waterway segment, as currently configured, present a practical challenge to your proposal."

Specifically, the "waterway segment, including the opening through the existing Brightman Street Bridge, affords no margin for navigational error, and appears unsuitable in its current state, when considering the intended vessel size, cargo and number of transits in your proposal," the Coast Guard said. The company's plan calls for 240 tanker trips to be made annually through the opening of the Brightman Street Bridge.

"Given this navigational situation, a revised waterway suitability assessment and environmental impact review may be required, prior to issuance of a letter of recommendation," the Coast Guard said.

Weaver's Cove proposed sending smaller LNG tankers up the Taunton River after Congress passed a transportation bill last year, which President Bush signed, that blocked the demolition of the Brightman Street Bridge over the river. The bridge was preserved as a result of language inserted into the bill by McGovern (see NGI, Aug. 15, 2005). As a result, Weaver's Cove sponsors, Hess LNG and Poten & Partners, were precluded from bringing conventional LNG vessels up the river because they wouldn't fit through the 98-foot wide openings in the old bridge.

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