National Grid has proposed a liquefaction plant as an addition to the Field’s Point gas storage facility, to be located in South Providence, and every single comment the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) received on the proposed facility from the public was negative and against the facility’s construction. No one from the public, it seems, is in favor of the project.
Of course this will not deter National Grid.
In a 39 page letter, National Grid’s legal counsel responded to every commenter. Of course, some of the comments were dismissed as irrelevant with the phrase, “Expression of commenter’s view.” This phrase was repeated 27 times, in response, for instance, to Greg Gerritt saying, “Climate change is the crisis of our times” or Jesus Holguin saying, “This facility is not going to benefit us in any way. Something that would benefit us is [a] just transition away from fossil fuels.”
National Grid’s legal team sorted through the testimony of the various commenters and pulled out all the statements that “identify potential environmental effects, reasonable alternatives, and measures to avoid or lessen environmental impacts.” Expressed concerns that were not environmental in nature will be addressed at a later time, says National Grid.
The sloppiness of the response’s composition is evident in some of the misspellings of various names. Monay McNeil is misspelled Money McNeil and state Representative Aaron Regunberg is misidentified as Erin Regunberg for instance.
Further, the response to each comment, if the comment was deemed worthy of response, is footnoted in some 13 documents called “draft resource reports” and filed with FERC on November 2 and 4. This means that finding the reason for National Grid’s objection to a particular comment requires cross referencing footnotes with the draft resource reports.
For instance, when Rhode Island state Senator Juan Pichardo was paraphrased as saying he was, “Opposed to this LNG or this facility being built and the waterfront is so close to hospitals and so close to the neighborhood,” National Grid responded with:
Refer to Resource Report 1, Section 1.4 (page 1-14) (Operation and Maintenance).
Refer to Resource Report 5, Section 5.3.2 (pages 5-8 through 9) (Fire Protection), Section 5.7 (pages 5-13 through 5-22) (Environmental Justice) and Section 184.108.40.206 (page 5-28) (Environmental Justice Socioeconomics).
Refer to Resource Report 8, Section 8.2.2 (Existing Residences and Buildings).
Refer to Resource Report 11, Section 11.1 (pages 11-2 through 11-8) (Safety Issues), Section 220.127.116.11 (pages 11-10 and 11-11) (Thermal Radiation and Flammable Exclusion Zones) and Section 11.3.1 (page 11-11) (Facility Response Plan).
Refer to Resource Report 13, Section 13.14 ((pages 13-102 through 104) Hazard Detection System), Section 13.15 (pages 13-105 through 109) (Fire Suppression and Response Plan) and Section 13.16 (pages 13-110 through 111) (Hazard Control Systems).
Senator Pichardo could spend quite a bit of time wading through page after page of reports to find out exactly why National Grid believes his concerns are without merit, if he were so inclined.
To be fair, pages 2-9 of National Grid’s legal response attempt to distill the information from the draft resource reports into a few paragraphs organized by subject, such as “Traffic Impacts” or “Comments on Rate and Cost Impacts on Retail Gas Customers.” In these sections, the concerns and opinions expressed by the public are legally elided by claiming that the law is on the side of National Grid, a legal position that National Grid maintains, but does not prove. Remember that all the documentation National Grid is submitting to FERC are essentially sales documents, created to convince FERC to approve the project over the objections of the public.
For instance, in response to a complaint made that the public meetings were not adequately advertised within the affected community, National Grid’s legal team writes, “Some stakeholders commented on the quality of the public notification that has been provided to local residents for the proposed Project. Resource Report 5, section 5.7.2 discusses the public outreach undertaken by NGLNG to communicate with the environmental justice populations near the proposed Project…”
In other words, despite the experience of the community, National Grid maintains that they satisfied the letter of the law.
There’s a lot in the legal team’s response worthy of comment, and I hope others will chime in with comments on this, but one more point is worth consideration. National Grid is a huge company, with many subsidiaries and ventures. So when National Grid says that there is a customer need for the new liquefaction facility, it should be noted that the customer mentioned is The Narragansett Electric Company, which is owned by National Grid.
At another point, when discussing rate impacts, National Grid disingenuously claims that, “State public utility commissions regulate retail rates.” This is true as far as it goes, until one realizes that the Rhode Island Public Utility Commission serves as a virtual rubber stamping agency for any rate increase proposed by utility companies such as National Grid or its subsidiary, Narragansett Electric.
Like an evil octopus, National Grid wants us to believe that it’s various tentacles aren’t actually all parts of some enormous beast, but independent snakes acting alone.
This is why it is difficult to take seriously National Grid’s answer to the comments of Nick Katkevich, who “urged that the environmental effects of the proposed Project be considered in the same environmental document as pipeline projects sponsored by subsidiaries of Spectra Energy Partners, LP in New England, specifically the AIM, Atlantic Bridge, and Access Northeast projects.”
National Grid claims that these are all separate projects that must each be judged independently, and that there will be no cumulative environmental effects, at least as can be judged under present law. National Grid claims that the liquefaction facility “would be undertaken even if those pipeline projects did not or do not proceed” and “is an unconnected single action that has independent utility so it would not be appropriate to consider it in the same environmental analysis with any of the pipeline expansion projects.”
Despite the contentions of National Grid’s legal team, the planned expansion of fracked and unfracked methane gas infrastructure in Rhode Island seems part of a grand plan to keep our state addicted to fossil fuels that are destroying the environment. These proposed projects have lifespans of 50 years or more, yet optimistically we have much less than 35 years to kick the fossil fuel habit.
No amount of corporate legalese can change that math.