A group of Providence elected officials announced their strong opposition to a proposal by National Grid to develop a new fracked gas liquefaction facility at Fields Point in South Providence. Citing concerns ranging from costs to ratepayers, safety risks and climate impact, the legislators — including Representatives Joseph S. Almeida (D-Dist. 12, Providence), Grace Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence), Aaron Regunberg (D-Dist. 4, Providence), Chris Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence), Edith H. Ajello (D-Dist. 1, Providence) and John J. Lombardi (D-Dist. 8, Providence) and Senators Juan Pichardo (D-Dist. 2, Providence), Gayle Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence) and Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence) — called on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to reject National Grid’s application, and warned the City of Providence against signing a tax stabilization agreement with the utility to facilitate the project.
Last summer, National Grid submitted a proposal to FERC to develop a $180 million facility to produce Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) directly from a Spectra Energy pipeline that delivers fracked gas from Marcellus Shale to Providence. LNG is produced by cooling natural gas to -260°F, which reduces its volume by 600 times and puts it into liquid form. As described in its application, National Grid would then utilize tanker trucks to export the LNG produced in Providence, primarily to locations in Massachusetts.
“No matter how you look at it, this project is a money-maker for the utility at the expense of our community and our state,” said Representative Almeida. “National Grid is asking us, the ratepayers, to foot the $180 million bill for this project, for what? So they can increase their own profits by exporting LNG out of the state! This does nothing to benefit our constituents, and it does nothing to benefit my neighbors on the South Side. All this proposal will do is transfer money from ratepayers’ pockets to National Grid’s coffers, and we’re not going to accept it.”
Legislators also expressed concerns about the safety risks of the proposed project.
“LNG is a dangerous substance,” said Representative Diaz. “Just two years ago, an LNG facility in Washington state exploded, causing an evacuation of everyone within a two-mile area. If that were to happen at this site, all of my constituents would be in danger. Why is it always our community that must shoulder the collateral damage and safety risks from these toxic projects?”
LNG is stable in liquid form, and without air it is not flammable. However, at any temperature over -260°F it converts to methane gas and expands by 600 times, rapidly pressurizing any sealed container. If LNG spills and mixes with airs, it becomes highly flammable and potentially explosive.
“I remember when Keyspan, which has since been bought by National Grid, applied to FERC with a similar proposal to build an LNG import facility at Fields Point in 2005,” said Senator Pichardo. “That application was denied due to the very real safety concerns of this kind of development. In fact, FERC Commissioner Nora Brownell cited the risks of accidents and explosions when turning down the proposal, stating that the project would not meet current federal safety standards. If doubling down on this dangerous fuel was unsafe ten years ago, it is unsafe for our neighborhood today, and I urge FERC to once again listen to the community’s opposition to this harmful development.”
Finally, the elected officials demanded that the climate consequences of the expanded fossil fuel infrastructure be taken into account.
“The science on climate change is clear. If my generation is to have any chance of inheriting an Ocean State with any state left in it, we need to transition to a clean energy economy as quickly as possible. This proposal would sink millions of ratepayer dollars into unnecessary new fossil fuel infrastructure that would be used for decades past our climate’s point of no return, and that is a betrayal of our children,” said Representative Regunberg. “Mayor Jorge Elorza and the Providence City Council have taken credit for being leaders on climate and environmental issues. But if the city awards a tax stabilization agreement to National Grid to support this project, then it is our belief that the mayor and council can no longer claim this kind of climate leadership. We hope they will do the right thing and tell National Grid that Providence will not facilitate this wasteful, ratepayer-funded, environmentally catastrophic scheme.”
The Providence legislators reported that they are submitting letters detailing their concerns to FERC, joining a growing list of community members and neighborhood organizations opposing National Grid’s application.
[From a press release]