Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney sent back a bill (H 5090) to the state legislature last Thursday that would block liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker shipments from reaching the Distrigas of Massachusetts LNG terminal in Everett, MA.

Romney said he supported one of the bill’s objectives — to block the construction of the controversial Weaver’s Cove LNG facility in Fall River, MA — but he drew the line with the existing Distrigas LNG terminal. “While I am opposed to siting near LNG facilities new residential areas, I cannot responsibly permit the closure of a facility that is so critical to the supply and distribution of natural gas to Massachusetts. Based upon this concern, I am proposing to strike [that section of the bill] in its entirety,” he wrote in an Aug. 10 letter to the Senate and House.

The closure of the Distrigas LNG terminal “would seriously jeopardize the Commonwealth’s energy supply, increase costs to consumers and disrupt lives and businesses,” the governor said. Distrigas provides up to 20% of New England’s natural gas needs on an annual basis. This figure climbs to 35% in the winter, with Distrigas supplying local storage facilities with LNG for peak shaving.

Romney, however, backed the section of the bill that would effectively stop the development of the $250 million Weaver’s Cove LNG project in Fall River, which would provide 800 MMcf/d of peak sendout capacity, 400 MMcf/d of baseload supply and 200,000 metric tons of LNG storage. “As I have stated in the past, I do not support the Weaver’s Cove project because it is not wise to construct new facilities in close proximity to residential neighborhoods,” he said. The Weaver’s Cove project won approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in July 2005, but it has faced considerable opposition from state and local leaders.

The bill approved by the state legislature would impose restrictions on the passage of LNG tankers under Massachusetts bridges, potentially preventing supplies from reaching the proposed Weaver’s Cove terminal and the existing Distrigas terminal.

The legislature is expected to consider Romney’s proposed changes to the bill during its next session, according to Romney spokesman Ryan Williams. The next formal session is expected to begin in January.

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