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Language in Highway Bill Could Block Weaver's Cove LNG Project

Seven lines of text added by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) to the Transportation Authorization Bill, which President Bush is expected to sign on Wednesday, could spell doom for the proposed Weaver's Cove LNG import terminal in Fall River, MA.

The 54 words quietly inserted into Section 1948 of the bill basically make it illegal for the Brightman Street Bridge, connecting Fall River and Somerset, MA, to be demolished to allow LNG cargo traffic up the Taunton River to the terminal.

"Amerada Hess has said all along that they need that old bridge to be demolished so they can fit their LNG tankers through, so we have included language in the highway bill preserving that bridge and designating it as a pedestrian walkway, bicycle path and emergency access route," said Michael Mershon, press secretary for McGovern.

When the president signs the massive six-year transportation bill in Aurora, IL, Wednesday, he may be blocking construction of a project his administration supports. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved construction of Weaver's Cove LNG in June (see Daily GPI, July 1). The $250 million LNG import project would provide 800 MMcf/d of peak natural gas delivery capacity to New England.

"We are aware of the pending legislation, and it appears inconsistent with the original justification for the new Brightman Street Bridge," Weaver's Cove Energy said in a statement. "It certainly appears to be at odds with the permits issued for the new bridge, which require the demolition of the old bridge to ensure the safety of shipping traffic in the Taunton River."

Weaver's Cove Energy spokesman Jim Grasso said permits previously issued to the Massachusetts Highway Department require the old rusty drawbridge to be taken down because it's a safety hazard. "The Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers have made a determination that the span between the piers is just not wide enough for today's shipping traffic, excluding LNG cargoes. They have made the determination that those piers jeopardize the safety of existing shipping traffic on the Taunton River." Grasso said it is unclear at this point how the two conflicting decisions will be reconciled.

"We are disappointed to learn that this language was slipped in through the back door in an effort to stop the LNG project," Weaver's Cove Energy said in its statement. "We are evaluating all options, legal, political or otherwise, that are available to us, and we will continue to pursue development of the Weaver's Cove project."

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