Rhode Island Gov. Donald L. Carcieri has invited the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to join the state, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), KeySpan Energy and others in a memorandum of understanding to develop a comprehensive Statewide Emergency Response Plan (SERP) for KeySpan’s proposal to upgrade its LNG storage facility in Providence, RI, to an import terminal.

The plan would address safety and security at the terminal, including tanker operations and landside structures in a coordinated manner, the governor said. “Thus far the USCG and KeySpan have verbally agreed,” and Carcieri expects other parties, such as the state attorney general and the cities of Providence and East Providence to join in.

The governor’s invitation, filed with FERC July 22 (CP04-223) follows up on several environmental scoping meetings held in Rhode Island concerning the proposed expansion of the terminal. KeySpan, which purchased the LNG storage facility from Duke Energy in 2002, filed at FERC in May to expand it into an import terminal. Since then there have been a rash of comments and protests from various citizens groups.

Carcieri said the group would have to consider steps that could be taken to prevent or reduce the harmful consequences of disaster, including preparation of a comprehensive plan and program for disasters, procurement of equipment and supplies, and carrying out training programs and public information programs for what to do if a disaster occurs. The governor noted the need for new energy supplies in New England.

An earlier filing by Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch took the NIMBY approach to avoiding disaster, suggesting land-based supply options be explored. He cited the risks of tanker ship deliveries through Narragansett Bay to the Port of Providence, saying that “by expanding the facility to allow marine deliveries, the inherent risks associated with LNG coming in contact with a water source are increased dramatically.”

The attorney general suggested other alternatives be explored including other, more remote locations in the Mid-Atlantic or New England, or an offshore terminal. He pointed to the report published recently by FERC on how to evaluate the hazards of waterbourne LNG, saying the results were limited to analyzing the relatively small spills that have occurred so far. He suggested that a terrorist attack could do far more damage. Lynch urged FERC to model the potential damage if an entire LNG tanker cargo were to be affected.

Further, the attorney general said KeySpan’s current 30-year old storage facility, which currently holds 600,000 bbl of LNG, should be evaluated as to the reliable life of the storage tanks, since they are subjected to constant pressure and the -260 degree temperature necessary to keep the LNG in a liquid state. He noted the more frequent turnover of the storage capacity — up to 50 times a year — could create additional stress and cited the lack of a containment wall around the facility. Seismic activity also could be a factor since Rhode Island is located in a region of “moderate” to “major,” seismicity, the attorney general claimed.

Before an import terminal is approved there should be a serious analysis to determine the number of affected communities, the public safety obligations imposed on each community, and the compounding environmental and socio-economic effects, the attorney general said.

Lynch said that while KeySpan’s facility is located in a waterfront industrial area, KeySpan failed to recognize the “significant waterfront revitalization efforts” in the planning stages by the cities of Providence and East Providence. He also is concerned about Algonquin Gas Transmission’s proposal to build 1.44 miles of 24-inch pipe to connect to the KeySpan facility, saying most of the pipe would go through a highly urban area.

KeySpan had announced an agreement last October with BG LNG Services to upgrade the facility and turn it into an LNG import terminal (see Daily GPI, Oct. 24, 2003).

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