Tuesday, August 23, 2005

ONshore LNG terminal causes traffic nightmare

Long Beach officials considering plans to build an LNG terminal in their port might be advised to look to Rhode Island's latest findings on the matter.

Giant tankers carrying liquefied natural gas through Narragansett Bay could cause traffic backups, hurt tourism and marine economies and slow emergency response times, according to two studies released Tuesday.

The studies focus on how the economy and traffic would be affected by LNG tankers heading to the planned Weaver's Cove Energy terminal in Fall River, Mass., which has been approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The studies were conducted by two independent companies for the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission, a regional group comprised of the cities of Middletown, Newport and Portsmouth. The commission has not taken a position on the LNG proposal, although the communities have each joined a legal fight against it.

Newport Harbor would be blocked for at least 20 minutes each time a tanker passes because of the wide security zone required around the ships, according to the economic impact report by Lincoln-based Pare Engineering Corp. Weaver's Cove has said it initially plans 50 to 70 tanker voyages per year.

That would restrict use of the bay several times a week during the boating season, and could result in the loss of major regattas and the Tall Ships festival. It could also damage the city's reputation as a tourist destination - one of the region's largest industries.

Jamestown Harbor would also be affected, as would the narrow waterway spanned by the Mount Hope Bridge further north.

Also, the tankers could conflict with testing at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, where the U.S. Navy tests torpedoes and sonar. The Navy asked FERC earlier this month to reconsider its approval of the Weaver's Cove project.

Of couese, offshore facilities have no such problems...no wonder the Governor favors them!