By ecoRI News staff
PROVIDENCE — A group of elected officials recently announced their opposition to a proposal by National Grid to develop a new liquefied natural gas facility at Fields Point on the city’s South Side.
Citing concerns such as costs to ratepayers, safety risks and climate impact, the Providence legislators — Representatives Joseph Almeida, D-District 12; Grace Diaz, D-11; Aaron Regunberg, D-4; Chris Blazejewski, D-2; and John Lombardi, D-8; and Senators Juan Pichardo, D-2; Gayle Goldin, D-3; and Harold Metts, D-6 — 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 the Marcellus Shale to Providence. LNG is produced by cooling natural gas to minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit, 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,” Almeida said. “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.”
The legislators also expressed concerns about the safety risks of the proposed project.
“LNG is a dangerous substance,” Diaz said. “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’s not flammable. However, at any temperature above minus 260, it converts to methane gas and rapidly pressurizes any sealed container. If LNG spills and mixes with air, it becomes highly flammable and potentially explosive.
The elected officials also want the climate consequences of the proposed fossil-fuel facility to 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,” Regunberg said. “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. 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.”
The legislators said they are submitting letters detailing their concerns to FERC, joining a growing list of community members and neighborhood organizations opposing National Grid’s application.