By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff
PROVIDENCE — The City Council is expected to take a hard look at a liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility proposed for the waterfront. Council member Seth Yurdin said the project raises a number of questions related to safety and environmental-justice issues, particularly for residents of low-income neighborhoods in South Providence and Washington Park, which are next to the city's industrial port.
Yurdin's resolution passed unanimously during the March 17 City Council meeting. The action calls for a comprehensive environmental impact statement for the $100 million project. The report would include air quality and traffic studies, a risk-management plan and public meetings in multiple neighborhoods. The City Planning Department will oversee the comprehensive review.
South Providence and Washington Park suffer from high rates of asthma, presumably brought on by pollution from nearby Interstate 95 and industrial businesses at the port. The companies there include a liquid asphalt plant that emits compounds linked to child development disorders and to cancer. An oil terminal emits comparable pollutants and others toxins linked to neurological and respiratory disorders. The Port of Providence also serves as a coal port, a fuel-oil depot and a train depot for ethanol.
The LNG project would be built next to an existing 127-foot-tall natural-gas fuel tank owned by National Grid. Chemical distributor Univar runs a nearby shipping facility that stores food additives, chlorine and chemicals used for the natural-gas-extraction process called hydraulic fracturing (fracking). The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is currently evaluating the project.
“Hopefully this will be something that can add and amplify the voice of the people that really need to be heard on it,” Yurdin said.
More than a decade ago, the city was one of several groups to successfully fight an LNG shipping terminal proposed on the same site by National Grid subsidiary KeySpan LNG. The proposed project sits next to the 26-million-gallon LNG tank. The liquefaction project would convert natural gas to the more concentrated LNG. The fuel would be stored at facilities across the state and region.
“The development of the Fields Point liquefaction facility will continue to deepen our reliance on fossil fuels, when, in fact, we should be investing much more into clean, renewable-energy sources,” Yurdin said. “The long-term cumulative impact of projects like the National Grid LNG will be devastating to our environment.”