Patrick signs LNG buffer bill into law
A bill that could effectively stop plans to build a liquefied natural gas import along the banks of the Taunton River has received the signature of Gov. Deval Patrick.
The bill, sponsored by state Rep. David Sullivan and co-sponsored by the entire Fall River delegation, requires LNG import terminals to have a minimum distance of 5,000 feet from the center of an LNG tank to the nearest residential home, elderly housing complex, school, hospital, health care facility, business or development.
A second provision in the bill requires LNG tankers to maintain a 1,500-foot clearance along the shore as it travels any Massachusetts waterway, from the hull to nearest residential home, elderly housing complex, school, hospital, health care facility, business or development.
The act only applies to LNG import terminals constructed after Jan. 1, 2007.
Sullivan said the bill’s approval serves as an important step in stopping Weaver’s Cove Energy’s plans to construct its terminal.
“This means a lot to Fall River to provide the protection the city deserves,” Sullivan said. “Most of all, I am grateful to the governor for following through and caring about the people of Fall River.”
Patrick spokeswoman Rebecca Deusser said the governor signed the bill because it would protect Fall River, while still permitting the state to consider other options for LNG terminals.
“Liquefied natural gas continues to be an important part of the commonwealth’s statewide energy plan, but there are also serious potential health and safety risks posed by LNG terminals and tankers,” Deusser said. “Gov. Patrick questions the wisdom of siting new LNG terminals in close proximity to densely populated areas, and he is particularly concerned about the project proposed in Fall River. This bill will help to protect the citizens of the commonwealth from these risks, and will specifically address the Fall River project without imposing a blanket prohibition on the appropriate siting of LNG terminals.”
Deusser said Patrick signed the bill and included a letter saying LNG is still in the state’s plans. A copy of Patrick’s letter was not available Thursday night.
James Grasso, whose firm represents Weaver’s Cove Energy, said the bill will cause hardship for property owners.
“I think it’s very unfortunate that the senor citizens and remaining consumers of natural gas continue to face the devastatingly high electrical and natural gas costs in the commonwealth,” Grasso said. “This bill only ensures that the poor and middle class may very well face situations where they will have to choose between food and heat this winter.”
Sullivan has worked for 31/2 years to pass the buffer zone bill. When filing the bill in 2005, Sullivan said the distances were based on studies such as the federally commissioned Sandia Report, which details the dangers associated with LNG.
The bill was stalled in a joint legislative committee in 2006 as questions developed over jurisdiction of waterways.
Sullivan said he couldn’t pinpoint what the difference is this year that resulted in the bill’s passage, but suggested that as fellow legislators are learning more about the Weaver’s Cove Energy proposal they are jumping on board to stop the project.
“All I can say is, I’m just really thankful that we’ve reached the point this will be written into law,” Sullivan said.
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