The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has suspended review of the proposed Weaver’s Cove liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal following an unfavorable decision by the U.S. Coast Guard last month that the agency says “casts serious doubt as to the feasibility of the project.”

The DEP will withhold any action on the LNG project slated for Fall River, MA, until it receives a final determination from the Coast Guard that the project can move forward, said DEP spokesman Ed Coletta.

The state agency informed Weaver’s Cove President Ted Gehrig of its action in a letter Monday. “MassDEP is staying its technical reviews of the [requested] permits until the Coast Guard has made its final letter of recommendation determination. If the Coast Guard determines that the waterway is suitable for the Weaver’s Cove smaller ships proposal, MassDEP will resume its technical review of these pending permit applications,” DEP Acting Commissioner Arleen O’Donnell wrote. A final decision by the Coast Guard is expected this summer, Coletta said.

In mid-May the Coast Guard delivered a blow to the embattled Weaver’s Cove Energy terminal project, saying the company’s proposal to use smaller LNG tankers was incompatible with the waterways near the proposed site in Fall River (see Daily GPI, May 15).

“It appears that the waterway may not be suitable for the type and frequency of LNG marine traffic contained in your smaller tanker proposal,” said Roy A. Nash, captain of the Port of Southeastern New England, in his preliminary review of the Weaver’s Cove tanker proposal.

Sponsors of the Weaver’s Cove LNG project proposed using smaller LNG tankers after language was inserted in a transportation spending bill, which was later signed by President Bush, that blocked the demolition of the Brightman Street Bridge over the Taunton River (see Daily GPI, Feb. 14, 2006). The old bridge was originally scheduled to be removed upon completion of a new Brightman Street bridge.

With the old bridge left intact, sponsors Hess LNG and Poten & Partners can’t bring conventional LNG vessels up the river because they won’t fit through the 98-foot-wide openings in the old bridge. Conventional LNG tankers are 145 feet wide.

As part of its proposal, Weaver’s Cove also planned to double the frequency of LNG deliveries to the Fall River site, increasing the number of vessels arriving through Narragansett and Mount Hope Bays to a range of 120-130 per year.

The Weaver’s Cove LNG terminal project, which FERC approved in mid-2005, has been the target of intense opposition by local, state and federal officials. If built, it would provide 800 MMcf/d of peak sendout capacity, 400 MMcf/d of baseload supply and 200,000 metric tons of LNG storage. The project would take up 68 of 73 acres at a former petroleum import terminal on the Taunton River, which feeds into Mount Hope Bay and Narragansett Bay about 50 miles south of Boston. Mill River Pipeline LLC would build two short pipelines to the Algonquin Gas Transmission system from the terminal to carry 400,000 Dth/d on average (see Daily GPI, July 1, 2005).

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