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Update #2 on BP’s LNG Terminal proposal

By David A. Bailey

In the months following my initial article on British Petroleum’s plans to build a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal at its Crown Landing site in New Jersey, Delawareans have awakened to the hazards these plans create. The Civic League opposes an LNG terminal at the Crown Landing site because the site will require LNG tankers, carrying 33 million gallons or more of LNG, to travel within less than a mile of the Salem and Hope Creek Nuclear Power plants, the Premcor refinery, the Sunoco refinery, and large, heavily populated areas such as Wilmington and New Castle, and go directly under the Delaware Memorial Bridge, several times per week. We believe that these tankers will create an unnecessary and avoidable risk to thousands of people and local industries, as well as an ongoing disruption to commerce as water traffic and traffic over the Delaware Memorial Bridge is halted for hours each week for security reasons.

The risks stem from the fact that LNG tankers that travel near populated areas, bridges, refineries, and nuclear power plants are prime terrorist targets. New research shows that if successfully attacked, a penetrated tanker can create a fireball that inflicts second-degree burns at distances of one to two miles if the LNG is ignighted. The terrorist risk can be virtually eliminated by moving the LNG terminal to a location south of the Salem Nuclear Power Plant. Not only would such relocation dramatically reduce the potential for damage from an attack; it would make the tankers much less attractive targets. BP’s argument that it does not want to relocate the terminal is based on time and expense. It doesn’t want to pay the cost in money and time for additional land, permits and pipeline construction to interesect the Northeast gas pipeline from the South at a more distant point. Delaware law, however, under the Coastal Zone Act, does not allow BP to build the docking facility for a terminal at its Crown Landing site which is directly over the pipeline. The Civic League believes that Delaware should resolutely enforce its Coastal Zone Law because not only this project, but future projects that may endanger us, could be built if the protection of the Coastal Zone Act is gutted.

To summarize the positive developments since August: There was a significant response to the County Comments article. It was broadcast as a Green Delaware Alert to Green Delaware’s members, which lead to numerous connections with organizations opposed to the LNG terminal in both Delaware and New Jersey. These organizations, including Green Delaware, Common Cause of Delaware, and LNG Community Focus, based in New Jersey, sent representatives to speak as panelists, together with representatives from BP, at the Civic League’s November meeting. This was especially important because the meeting was covered by both WILM radio and the News Journal’s Jeff Montgomery. Since that time, Jeff Montgomery has written several major headline articles for the News Journal on BP’s plans. These articles provided a probing and revealing analysis of the issues raised at the November meeting. Columnists Al Mascitti and Ron Williams have also written on the subject, and WILM has devoted significant time to the LNG issue, including a talk program on January third’s WILM Morning Report.

The Civic League has sent our Resolution and a letter of opposition to the Secretary of DNREC who will rule on BP's application for a Coastal Zone permit. We also sent comments to the Coast Guard on security plans for the tankers, and our Resolution will be taken to Washington on personal visits with our delegation.

One of the arguments presented repeatedly by BP is that people shouldn’t be bothered by LNG tankers on the Delaware River because there are already other things far more dangerous moving up and down the river. Hazards accumulate, and in fact multiply because one catastrophe can set off another. In addition, the complexity of security requirements increases geometrically with each additional hazard monitored. Philadelphia Gas and Electric, with support from Mayor John Street, is already pushing to bring LNG up to PG&E’s terminal in South Philly. If BP’s plans are approved, it increases the chance that PG&E will also get what they want. Protecting these tankers from anyone who can fire a 50mm rifle is impossible. That's all it would take to penetrate an LNG tankers hold.

Advocates of LNG are trying to overrule Delaware’s Coastal Zone Act at the Federal level. Inserted into page 326 of the Congressional Record, H10560, under the misleading title of “Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Salaries and Expenses,” are the statements:

“On March 24, 2004, FERC issued a declaratory order asserting exclusive jurisdiction over the approval and siting of LNG terminals…The Natural Gas Act clearly preempts States on matters of approving and siting natural gas infrastructure associated with interstate and foreign commerce…Any dispute of LNG siting jurisdictional authority now will be counterproductive to meeting our natural gas needs in the future.”

Because this was dicta in the Budget Bill, it is not controlling. Watch for legislation that says the same thing to be interoduced soon. There were several bills in the last Congress.

The Civic League does not oppose the concept of an LNG terminal; we oppose BP’s plans to locate the terminal at a site that minimizes its own short-term costs at the expense of Delaware’s and New Jersey’s long-term welfare. [Ed. note: The only other place the pipelines are anywhere close to a large river is in Maryland on the Susquehanna. The Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries are wider and less populated than the northern part of the Delaware River. Why pick on us?]

Can the opponents of BP’s Crown Landing Site prevail? From the perspective of sheer power and money, there is no way opponents can overcome the combination of BP’s highly financed misinformation campaign and the influence of the petroleum and gas industry in Washington except with great work on the part of our Congressional delegation and PA and NJ's. We have a powerful ally: common sense. Common Sense does not work by itself, though. It is up to each of us, as individuals and as allies, to make sure that common sense is heard by our Senators and Representatives, and that they know our wishes. Just pick up the phone and call the offices listed in this issue. Talk to any staff person that answers. Tell them to protect our Coastal Zone and keep LNG tankers out of Delaware's waters.


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