House Bill to Block LNG Tankers From R.I. Waters

Friday, May 12, 2006
The House of Representatives on May 10 joined a growing list of official bodies erecting hurdles in front of a proposed liquefied natural gas terminal in Fall River, Mass. The House unanimously approved legislation that would, in effect, block LNG tankers from sailing through Rhode Island waters to get to the terminal. Sponsored by Rep. Raymond E. Gallison Jr., D-Bristol, the bill would prevent any tanker from coming within 1,000 yards of any residences, piers, docks, wharves or waterfront facilities. A tanker sailing to Fall River would have to pass within 600 yards of Fort Wetherill in Jamestown, 700 yards of Fort Adams, 400 yards of Sandy Point lighthouse on Prudence Island, 700 yards of the Prudence Island ferry dock and 500 yards of Arnold's Point in Portsmouth. The bill passed after Gallison amended it in an attempt to limit any chance that it would trump federal jurisdiction on interstate navigation. In a letter to Speaker of the House William J. Murphy, D-West Warwick, Rear Adm. David P. Pekoske, commander of the First Coast Guard District, said the legislation as passed in committee, would have established a state exclusion zone around tankers, and only the Coast Guard can establish such a zone. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved the Fall River proposal, but Massachusetts and Rhode Island officials are appealing that decision. The applicant, Weaver's Cove Energy, still must obtain water quality certificates from both states for dredging associated with the plan. The Massachusetts congressional delegation successfully put another stumbling block into the federal transportation bill approved last summer. That provision designates that the existing Brightman Street Bridge be turned into a bike and pedestrian path once its replacement span is completed in 2010. Because the 1,000-foot long LNG tankers could not sail under the old bridge, the company recently proposed using smaller tankers, but has to submit documentation that that plan is feasible and would not be a navigation problem. In addition, U.S. Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., recently filed an energy bill that includes a provision to permit the demolition of the old Brightman Street Bridge. A spokesman for Thomas suggested that such moves against the project were ignoring the energy needs of the region, as well as the nation. Last month, the Naval Affairs Commission, a legislative advisory panel, voted to oppose the Fall River facility. (Source: Newport Daily News)
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