Council's wary of LNG plan, Street isn't
By MARK McDONALD
Jan. 27th, 2006
Mayor Street says that if the Philadelphia Gas Works builds a terminal to receive liquefied natural gas from large double-hulled tankers coursing up the Delaware River to the company's Port Richmond facility, ratepayers will save millions of dollars on their energy bills in the years to come.
But yesterday Street was displaying little of his usual cheery optimism when asked whether he could gain City Council support for a contract between the city-owned utility and the company that would operate the new terminal.
"I think there is a chance that it can happen," Street said. But he added, "people are just so reluctant to change."
Street described the proposed LNG import terminal as a "progressive and forward-thinking" response to future energy crises.
Though PGW has yet to ink a deal with its private partner, thought to be Hess LNG of New York City, heavy opposition is already building in Council.
Next Thursday, Council is scheduled to vote on a nonbinding resolution that expresses Council's "unqualified opposition" to any LNG shipping terminal in the city or LNG tankers sailing on the Delaware. The actual contract isn't expected in Council until spring at the earliest.
The resolution was drafted by Council members Joan Krajewski, Frank DiCicco and Council President Anna Verna, whose districts border the Delaware.
DiCicco said the city has no business exposing the rapidly growing neighborhoods along the river to the safety risks posed by the enormous tankers.
"This could turn out to be the trash-to-steam debate of this century," he said, referring to Mayor Wilson Goode's failed attempt to locate a massive energy plant in South Philadelphia in the 1980s.
DiCicco said he has gained the support of Councilman James Kenney. And Councilmen Juan Ramos and Michael Nutter appear to be leaning toward supporting the resolution.
"I am very skeptical about any support for this LNG proposal, given the legitimate safety concerns," Nutter said.
Street said that the LNG contract will likely hit Council as the political cycle heats up. "The timing is a little unfortunate," he said.
DiCicco said he's talked with developers who want to build high-rise condominiums along the river who say they fear sales will plummet if the LNG project is approved.
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Last modified: 18 January 2006