Update April 25: The planned April 25 public hearing for the proposed natural-gas liquefaction facility on the Providence waterfront has been postponed, and opponents of the project are worried that there may not be a chance for public input.
The meeting was organized by the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC), but was delayed so that the state agency can have more time to complete a federal consistency determination on behalf of National Grid. National Grid, the builder of the natural gas project, has agreed to extend the deadline for the review until Oct. 31.
The Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island was concerned that the delay may eliminate the opportunity for public input and scrutiny of the project, which is being built on contaminated land and poses health and safety issues. But CRMC said one or two hearings will be held in late summer or early fall.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission decides the fate of the project, but the commission has asked the state Department of Environmental Management for a soil analysis of the site at Fields Point, as well as an analysis from CRMC.
By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff
Expect large crowds at upcoming hearings for the proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) project slated for the Providence waterfront.
The Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) is hosting the public meetings, scheduled for April 25 and May 9, both at 6 p.m.. Due to public outcry about the $100 million project, the location of the meetings will likely be held at a site that can accommodate a big turnout.
The controversial project has been somewhat slow to progress since it was announced in 2015. Numerous construction efforts at the 42-acre site on the Providence River have created confusion about what is being built and who is responsible for the many permits and approvals.
Opponents say the fossil-fuel project intensifies an already toxic mix of businesses on the Providence waterfront. The Field’s Point industrial site sits on contaminated land and is host to hazardous chemical processing facilities, petroleum processors, and a coal depot. Nearby facilities include a hazardous waste disposal facility and the state’s largest medical complex.
“If we bring in an LNG plant it’s like bringing a match to gasoline,” said Cristina Cabrera, executive director or the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island.
The city’s industrial waterfront sits within a low-income neighborhood and is one of the state’s most racially diverse communities. “The area is completely disregarded,” Cabrera said.
National Grid says there is an insufficient supply of natural gas to meet residential and commercial demand. An LNG facility increases the reserve by converting natural gas into a liquid through extreme cooling. That liquid requires 600 times less space than standard natural gas and therefore more fuel can be stored nearby to meet peak demand, such as during prolonged periods of cold weather.
National Grid says the space saving is like comparing Gillette Stadium and a two-bedroom apartment. Liquefied gas from the facility would be stored in an existing 26-million-gallon tank at Field’s Point and another tank in Exeter.
In addition to permits from CRMC, approvals are needed from the city of Providence, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. However, the Natural Gas Act of 1938 gives natural-gas companies the right to bypass most state and local siting laws.
The Environmental Justice League and the group No LNG in PVD are demanding a full environmental impact study of the site and greater public participation.
If approved, construction is expected to begin in August.