Members of the No LNG in PVD coalition, which opposes National Grid’s proposed fracked gas liquefaction facility in the Port of Providence, today delivered a letter to Janet Coit, executive director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) and the office of Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo.
Monika Huertas, who heads up No LNG in PVD, read the letter to Janet Coit and Terrence Gray, who oversees environmental protection in the state. In the letter Huertas acknowledges that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), not a state agency, will be deciding on National Grid’s application, but Huertas mentioned two ways that she and the No LNG in PVD coalition believe that RIDEM could stop the liquefaction facility from being built.
RIDEM, said Huertas, could deny a Short Term Response Action Plan (STRAP) soil management permit or RIDEM could deny the project 401 Water Quality Certification, under the federal authority of Clean Water Act. In addition, the state’s Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) could deny the project Federal Consistency Certification, under the federal authority of Coastal Zone Management Act.
No LNG in PVD has devoted countless hours, working with the process, to derail Grid’s plans.They have pointed out the negative health effects such a facility would have on nearby residents. They pointed out the danger to surrounding communities and vital infrastructure such as highways and hospitals should there be any major safety concerns at the facility.
In the meeting with Coit, the No LNG in PVD members objected the way in which RIDEM seemingly favors National Grid and dismisses the concerns of community and coalition members. As No LNG in PVD member Andrew Poyant pointed out to Coit, when RIDEM uses its “discretion” on an issue that may either tilt in the favor of National Grid or for opponents of the liquefaction facility, RIDEM always decides in Grid’s favor.
“When we point out our concerns, the answer is ‘we have a very limited interpretation of the regulations’ but when National Grid fails to participate, the response is that you have a wide interpretation of the regulations,” noted No LNG in PVD member Aaron Jaehnig.
To Coit it’s a matter of intrepreting the regulations. “I see what you mean,” said Coit. “Our role is constrained. So I think that one of the things that [RIDEM’s site remediation head] Joe [Martella], who has been on the front lines of this, is trying to do is explain to people what our role is. But I understand your point about how we interpret that role.”
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“In our original comment letter we had multiple comments as to how [National Grid needs] to do a full remediation and how [National Grid doesn’t] qualify for the STRAP,” said Poyant. “And then DEM wrote a 12-page letter disregarding our comments and all the [comments] that said ‘these are the reasons that [National Grid] does not qualify for a STRAP. So it’s frustrating that we, as volunteers, as people that are concerned about the community, who are spending our time trying to do what’s right and everything that we come up with is just shot down.”
“Our mission,” said RIDEM’s Terry Gray, by way of explanation, “is to make sure that they clean up the site…”
“But they are not looking to clean up the site,” countered Poyant. “They are only looking to clean up the tiny portion in order to get to build the project that they want.”
This conversation gets at another issue that No LNG in PVD has been trying to get RIDEM to pay attention to. National Grid has segmented their plan to build a liquefaction facility into smaller plans. By talking only about site remediation, that is, cleaning up the contaminated soil in and around the site of the liquefaction plant, they are able to avoid discussion of the liquefaction plant itself.
“We are a regulatory agency looking at a specific set of regulations regarding the remediation of the site,” said Coit. “We’re not in a position… to give an up or down on whether the facility is used [as a liquefaction facility.]”
“But that regulation does allow for consideration of future use,” said Jaehnig, the future use being the liquefaction facility itself.
“The short term requirements for STRAPS say there shouldn’t be any impacts on human health or the environment over both the long term and short term and that community meetings should allow for discussion of long term use,” said Poyant. “All our concerns about the use [of the land to be remediated] have been dismissed.”
The only reason National Grid is remediating the very small portion of contaminated land it owns in the Port of Providence is so it can build its liquefaction plant. But in discussing the remediation plan, some feel the rules are being interpreted to deny discussion of the liquefaction plant. This makes it seem as if No LNG in PVD is arguing against the remediation of the soil (theoretically a good thing) and not against the building of new fracked gas infrastructure.
In New York, the DEC, which is that state’s equivalent to Rhode Island’s DEM, uses its power to deny permits, thereby preventing LNG infrastructure from being built, said Nick Katkevich of the FANG Collective, adding, “So there’s a precedent for state agencies to use their discretion to stop projects like that.”
After meeting with Janet Coit and RIDEM the group of about ten people headed over the the State House where they delivered the same message to Governor Gina Raimondo through her intermediary Rico Vota. After that they delivered the letter to Sean O’Roarke, Raimondo’s newly minted Chief Resiliency Officer.
The letter is signed by Rhode Island state Senators Gayle Goldin (District 3) and Jeanine Calkin (District 30), Rhode Island State Representatives Edith Ajello (District 1), Chris Blazejewski (District 2), Moira Walsh (District 3), Aaron Regunberg (District 4), Marcia Ranglin-Vassell (District 5), John Lombardi (District 8), Grace Diaz (District 11), Joseph Almeida (District 12) and Susan Donovan (District 69), Providence City Councilors Seth Yurdin (Ward 1), Sam Zurier (Ward 2) and Nirva Lafortune (Ward 3), The Mashapaug Nahagansett Tribe, the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island, The FANG Collective and the Sierra Club – Rhode Island Chapter.