Boston Mayor Thomas Menino on Tuesday said the city was studying the prospect of taking legal action to stop tankers laden with liquefied natural gas (LNG) from entering Boston Harbor following a new federal study that found that a terrorist attack on an LNG vessel could cause major injuries and structural damage from the intense heat.

The study, which was commissioned by the Department of Energy (DOE), “corroborates” the city’s findings with respect to the dangers of LNG, said Seth Gitell, a spokesman for Menino. The mayor has asked the city’s legal department to review the new study and determine if there are grounds for legal action to halt LNG shipments in Boston Harbor, he told NGI.

Menino sought a temporary injunction to block LNG tankers following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, arguing that the tankers were a potential hazard to the city and four communities that border the harbor. But a federal judge in Boston ruled at the time that there was “no discernible claim” by the city that the LNG tankers posed a threat (see Daily GPI, Oct. 30, 2001).

The LNG shipments that enter Boston Harbor are off-loaded at Distrigas of Massachusetts’ terminal in Everett, MA.

In another development, Mayor Edward M. Lambert Jr. of Fall River, MA, has gone straight to the White House to speak with President Bush’s chief of staff, Andrew Card, about an LNG terminal that is being proposed near his city. The mayor phoned Card’s office on Tuesday and left a message with his staff, said spokesman Eric Poulin. He wants to make sure the president sees a copy of the LNG risk study, which was conducted by Sandia National Laboratories of New Mexico.

“It says something about the debate that is raging nationally” about LNG terminals, Poulin said. “It is relevant to the debate over the placement of these facilities.”

Poten & Partners’ subsidiary Weaver’s Cove Energy is seeking to site an 4.4 Bcf capacity receiving terminal near Fall River. Lambert is opposed to the project because of environmental issues and the location, Poulin said. He noted the state of Massachusetts last week rejected Weaver’s Cove supplemental environmental impact report on the project, which is needed for the company to receive its permits. That action essentially sent the company back to the drawing board, he noted.

Poulin cited a laundry list of other LNG terminals that have been proposed for Maine, Rhode Island, Long Island and Eastern Canada, which he believes could be viable alternatives to the Weaver’s Cove project.

In other action, the U.S. Coast Guard said the federal report assessing LNG risks confirmed that it is taking the right steps to prepare for and prevent potential accidents or terrorists attacks on LNG-laden tankers entering U.S. ports.

The study “confirms…that the site-specific risk management activities that the Coast Guard already has in place can significantly reduce the possibility of a major loss of cargo from an accident or attack,” said Rear Admiral Thomas H. Gilmour, the Coast Guard’s assistant commandant for marine safety.

“The classified version of the study will provide us even more information, and will assist the Coast Guard in further refining our risk-reduction efforts to prevent the types of attack that have the highest potential for a major loss of cargo,” he said in a prepared statement.

The 167-page report, which was released Tuesday, concluded that a terrorist attack on tankers transporting volatile LNG into U.S. ports could create a thermal hazard that could burn the skin of people a mile from a spill site, and could cause major injuries and structural damage within a third of a mile from a site (see Daily GPI, Dec. 22). It noted that terrorists have a grab bag of options to use to attack LNG tankers — rocket-propelled grenades, boats, planes or missiles.

However, the report said that the risks from terrorist attacks “[could] be significantly reduced with appropriate security, planning prevention and mitigation.”

The study is the first federally-funded study to take a comprehensive look at the full consequences of a terrorist attack on a carrier vessel delivering LNG to a U.S. port. With the nation thirsty for more natural gas, top government leaders are exploring ways to import LNG into the country safely. The push by energy companies to erect LNG terminals is being met with strong resistance from environmentalists and local communities, particularly in the Northeast and on the West Coast. Most opponents cite the safety and security concerns of having an LNG facility located in their community.

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