Rhode Island Enacts Law Banning LNG Traffic in State Waters
Rhode Island Gov. Donald L. Carcieri has signed into law a bill that would prevent tankers carrying liquefied natural gas (LNG) from using the state's waters to deliver the chilled fuel to the proposed Weaver's Cove LNG import terminal in Fall River, MA.
The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Raymond Gallison Jr., was passed by the General Assembly in late June before it adjourned. Specifically, the measure would block LNG tankers from coming up the Narragansett Bay, which serves as the waterfront for two of Rhode Island's largest cities -- Providence and Newport.
It was not immediately known what impact the new law would have on the proposed Weaver's Cove LNG terminal, a $250 million project that would provide 800 MMcf/d of peak sendout capacity, 400 MMcf/d of baseload supply and 200,000 metric tons of LNG storage. The terminal would be located at a former petroleum import terminal on the Taunton River, which feeds into Mount Hope Bay and the Narragansett Bay.
There also was the question of whether federal law would preempt the new state law. A spokeswoman for Gallison said "not as far as we know" would federal law supersede the state's action. She noted that Gallison's measure was based on the federal Waterfront Safety Act.
However, in letters in May to Rhode Island's Senate president and House speaker, Rear Adm. David P. Pekoske, commander of the First Coast Guard District, said that any state law in this instance would be preempted by federal law, according to a published report in the Providence Journal. The letters further pointed to Massachusetts, where a bill similar to Gallison's was passed by the state legislature in 2004 but is now being challenged in court by federal authorities on constitutional grounds, it said.
The new Rhode Island law is the latest in a string of obstacles that has been thrown in front of the proposed Weaver's Cove LNG terminal, a project that has elicited considerable opposition from local, state and federal congressional leaders that has spilled over into the courts (see Daily GPI, Jan. 30). The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the project a year ago despite the protests.
Opponent Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) responded by adding language to a transportation authorization bill, later signed into law by President Bush, that blocked the demolition of the Brightman Street Bridge connecting Fall River and Somerset, MA (see Daily GPI, Aug. 10, 2005). This action would make it impossible for large LNG tankers to navigate the Taunton River and reach the Weaver's Cove facility in Fall River. Weaver's Cove, which is sponsored by Poten & Partners and Amerada Hess Corp., countered with a proposal to build smaller LNG tankers to get around the constraints of the Brightman Street Bridge (see Daily GPI, Feb. 14).
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