By Pattie Pacella, Neighb News Correspondent
Approximately 40 people attended the Acushnet Selectboard meeting on 6/29, to hear the LNG Advisory Committee’s findings and recommendations on the proposed expansion of the facility on Peckham Street.
Access Northeast, a project proposed by Eversource, National Grid and Spectra Energy, will seek to construct two 3.4 Bcf (billion cubic feet) Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) tanks with an outside diameter of 270 feet at the base and a height of 170 feet each. The site on Peckham Road currently contains two LNG tanks with a total capacity of .5 Bcf.
For comparison, the rainbow tank that can be seen from the Southeast Expressway in Dorchester has a 477-foot circumference, is 152 feet wide, 140 feet tall and holds 1.2 Bcf, according to National Grid.
Fire Chief Kevin Gallagher, the LNG Committee chairperson, began by saying it was not the Acushnet Selectboard, or the Mayor of New Bedford that was going to make the decision regarding this project.
“It will be made by four commissioners on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC),” he said.
He said his committee met for 23 hours, 10 meetings in total.
“But countless hours individually,” he said.
He explained the process for the project, which is in the pre-filing phase, with a filing application due in November 2016. Mr. Gallagher said that it could take a year until the commission makes its recommendation for a yes or no.
Mr. Gallagher presented numerous recommendations to the board in the categories of Public Safety/Security, Environmental/Alternative Locations, and general recommendations.
The first recommendation under public safety/security was that a third party consultant be hired to review all of the draft resource reports as they relate to the Acushnet components of the project.
The second recommendation was that the Selectboard should hire consultants to conduct the following studies: Worst case scenario, present capability assessments, and overlay (a report which draws from the worst case findings and overlays results of present capabilities.)
Chief Gallagher reviewed the third recommendation as a draft by-law which would establish a “permit to operate an LNG facility in the Town of Acushnet.”
The next recommendation was for a risk assessment.
“The town deserves a quantative risk assessment at the highest levels,” Chief Gallagher said.
Recommendation five and six referred to monitoring the language that Northeast Access provides FERC, especially with piping, and per Acushnet’s request to eliminate LNG’s trucks from the roadways.
“[Police] Chief [Michael] Alves and I are extremely concerned when LNG trucks come into town,” Chief Gallagher said.
He did say that as of June 27, 2016 there were no trucks coming out of Acushnet, and that the proponents took that off the table.
Recommendations seven through nine referred to the pipeline. Chief Gallagher said that there was an old 12-inch supply line on South Main Street, and he was concerned about that pipe.
“It was installed in the 1960’s,” he said. “And it’s falling apart.”
The final two recommendations in public safety/security referred to security planning and review. The committee recommended that the board begin a “Security Summit” in the summer months to review with local, state, and federal law enforcement authorities.
“Our world is very different from 1971,” he said. “Terrorism is a daily event and we can’t seem to escape it in the last six months.”
The next set of recommendations that were environmental. He said that Access Northeast was proposing that 65 acres of wetlands would be permanently impacted or destroyed.
Chief Gallagher said that losing 65 acres of wetlands would be historic on both a state and local level. There are nine recommendations in that category and they included the topic of wetland delineation, including the Acushnet Conservation Commission, mitigation, monitoring air quality, and independent monitoring of drinking water around that area.
There was a brief presentation on home values. Chief Gallagher said that the committee has initiated a property value impact study, and hoped that the Selectboard would follow up on it.
Among the general recommendations, the topics included tanks and containment, cost to taxpayers, necessity, property taxes to Acushnet, and payment for studies.
Chief Gallagher also stated the last general recommendation was for the Selectboard to appoint an “LNG Ombudsman,” to be the principal point of contact for the town; and ask Access Northeast to designate an “Acushnet Ombudsman” to be the contact for the project.
Selectboard chairperson Garry Rawcliffe thanked the work of Chief Gallagher and the committee in glowing terms.
“This is stellar work,” Mr. Rawcliffe said. “An outstanding job, thank you.”
He then assigned each selectboard member an area of the presentation to review and gather their own information to report back.
Selectboard member Mike Cioper took the conservation review; board member Kevin Gaspar took the alternative site review, and Mr. Rawcliffe took the parts he can review with town counsel now.
Mr. Gaspar also thanked the committee for their hard work and asked a question in regard to the “dialogue over the $12.5 million revenue number that they keep saying the town will receive.”
Chief Gallagher stated that principal assessor Kelly Koska took the total cost of the Acushnet project as a root to use in the formula. He said that the town does not tax based on the project, but on the structures.
Mr. Cioper asked if residents’ homeowners insurance would be affected.
Mr. Gaspar stated that he had spoken to a few people he knew in the insurance field and they had stated that if the policy required to go to an underwriter with anything new in the policy that the insurance was going to go up at least 25%.
“The people I spoke to in the insurance field said most people would go to the Mass. Fair Plan,” said Mr. Gaspar. “You’re thrown into a pool and charged a higher rate.”
Mr. Gaspar said he would like to see the committee stay established as the project moved forward. Mr. Rawcliffe agreed, especially where more resource reports would be coming out from Access Northeast at the end of July.
Chief Gallagher stated that committee members thought it was important for another set of eyes to review the resource reports, so they wanted to stay together.
Mr. Gaspar said that he had “rarely seen such attention to detail given to a report in my political, professional or personal life,” and he found the committee’s presentation “commendable.”
He also said the report was “an asset to this board and this job.”
The meeting ended with the Selectboard voting unanimously to keep the LNG Advisory Committee together until November.
“And making you the LNG Ombudsman,” Mr. Gaspar said directly pointing to Chief Gallagher.
The presentation can be read in its entirety on the Acushnet website at www.acushnet.ma.us; under Boards and Committees, LNG Advisory Committee. •••