Providence propane proposal sees increasing opposition

PROVIDENCE – Amid growing opposition to a proposed expansion of a propane shipping terminal in the Port of Providence, state regulators have extended a public comment deadline for the owner’s request for an expedited review of their application.

The deadline was originally set for May 7th. However, in order to “ensure transparency and accessibility”, the siting board of the energy plant has postponed the date for submitting comments to May 28th.

It comes after the board received more than 400 comments, including from Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, more than two dozen lawmakers, local environmental groups, and the State Department of Environmental Management’s plan for Sea 3 Providence to expand its marine terminal to that this is also possible. Take propane deliveries from a nearby railway line.

Much of the responses to the proposal came late last week after Attorney General Peter F. Neronha raised concerns about Sea 3 Providence’s petition for a declaratory decision on his application and requested a full review of a fossil fuel infrastructure expansion project at ProvPort and that, he said, could be incompatible with state policies against climate change.

In a memorandum of law submitted to the site committee, his office set out what he believed to be negative environmental impacts the expansion would result.

“The proposed increase in operations is substantial and raises serious concerns about the cumulative addition of noxious air emissions associated with increased truck traffic in an environmental community already overburdened with pollution, as well as other serious public health and safety concerns in connection with rail transport and storage of [propane]”Said Neronha’s office.” In addition, an expansion of the facility to increase the import and distribution of [propane] runs counter to the state’s binding long-term climate targets. ”

Elorza, like the DEM, called for a full review of the proposal, highlighting both an increase in truck traffic in the port area and safety issues related to the transport of propane by rail as a matter of concern.

“Government environmental law and regulation has limited options for regulating hazardous substances in rail transport,” Terrance Gray, DEM deputy director, wrote to the board of directors. “However, from both an environmental and a public safety perspective, we are concerned about the increased transport of dangerous substances by rail in this area.”

The vast majority of individual commentators called for a full review of the proposal, with most also expressing their opposition to the project. Most of the comments in support of the expansion came from non-government propane companies and their employees.

Sea 3 Providence said the expansion, which also includes the addition of 540,000 gallons of storage for an existing 19 million gallon tank, will enable better propane pricing and a more reliable supply. The company also says it will provide access to “renewable propane,” which is made from biomass and animal or vegetable fats rather than petroleum and natural gas, the conventional sources of fuel.

And, according to an industry group, propane can be an integral source of energy for the state.

“Propane is the unsung energy hero of extreme weather events. If climate change increases the likelihood of these events, as many predict, we need to make sure Rhode Island has a healthy, thriving propane industry to step in and provide energy for safety in these emergencies, ”the New England Propane Association said in a letter of support .

However, James Crowley, attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation, says the state shouldn’t support increases in propane use.

“Despite Sea 3 Providence’s description of the product as ‘clean propane’ [it] is just one of several filthy fossil heating fuels that Rhode Island must move away from in the coming years to meet the emissions reductions required under the recently passed climate change law, ”he quoted a new state bill aiming to make Rhode Island net by 2050 -Achieve zero emissions. “If consumers are encouraged to invest in new propane stoves in 2021 and beyond, it will be harder, not easier, for Rhode Island to achieve emissions reductions.”

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