Monday, June 20, 2005

LNG Myth-Busting

Finally, someone he knows whereof he speaks has decided to offer an informed opinion on the LNG nimbyism going on around here. E. Howard McVay, Jr., a merchant marine captain and a Narragansett Bay pilot licensed in Rhode Island., has written "Don't believe NIMBY myths about LNG" in an attempt to dispel some of the hysterical myths being propagated about LNG. Here is the complete piece, read on:
Almost every article I have read in The Journal, and other newspapers, regarding one of the proposals to bring liquefied-natural-gas (LNG) tankers into Providence is rich with inaccuracies. I would like to address a few of the statements that I know to be misleading if not wrong.

First myth: The passage of LNG tankers (not supertankers) through Narragansett Bay would harm marine life.

It is correct that they would affect marine life. Recent studies show that the fish kill in Greenwich Bay was due largely to a lack of oxygen, caused by an environment too rich in nutrients. One study measured the dissolved oxygen in the water column off Sabin Point, in the Providence River channel; the results showed that after a ship had passed, the oxygen level rose measurably -- improving the water quality for the fish.

Should we, therefore, open a mega-port in Providence -- or, better yet, a container port in Apponaug -- to save numerous marine species in Greenwich Bay?

Second myth: The passage of LNG tankers would affect commercial fishing.

Since long before the 9/11 attacks, liquid-propane-gas (LPG) tankers have been going in and out of Narragansett Bay with a moving security zone around the vessel -- similar to what would probably be required for LNG ships. The escort vessels of the Coast Guard and the state Department of Environmental Management have many years' experience running ahead and alerting commercial fishing vessels of a gas ship's heading their way, requiring them to move out of the way. A fishing vessel may have to stay out of the way for 10 to -- at most -- 15 minutes before returning to where it had been fishing.

Third myth: The passage of LNG ships would affect recreational boating.

The LPG vessels have been plying the Bay's waters for years without an impact on the many world-class yachting events that take place here. Why? Because the schedulers of the events work closely with the pilots aboard most vessels on these waters. Indeed, ideally most ships are in their berth and starting cargo operations before most sailing events start. Thus they rarely bother each other.

Fourth myth: LNG vessels passing under bridges would cause major traffic delays.

After 9/11, the Coast Guard started closing the Newport Bridge to traffic while an LPG tanker passed under it. During the learning curve of the first bridge closings, there were some delays. But once we had perfected the technique, we reduced the bridge-closure time to about eight minutes -- enough to clear the bridge of traffic while the LPG passes under it.

My life has been focused on the waters of Narragansett Bay since early childhood; besides being a ship pilot, I fish, race sailboats, and cruise these waters. If the passage of LNG ships in and out of Providence were not to be safe, the Rhode Island State Licensed Pilots of Narragansett Bay would work to prevent these vessels from passing through our waters. Our job is to protect the waters of the Bay from unsafe navigational practices of any foreign-flag vessel in our state's waters.

Therefore, should you read an article stating that LNG tankers cannot pass through our waters safely, the chances are you're reading the writings of a NIMBY ("Not in my backyard") person, who is grasping at anything to prevent a project from moving forward -- not the writings of Rhode Island's navigational experts, who regulate such activity.

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