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LNG gets a firm no - sort of

By Michael Currie Schaffer
Inquirer Staff Writer

Fri, Feb. 17, 2006

In a 12-2 vote yesterday, City Council members declared their intention to never ever allow the Philadelphia Gas Works to build a liquefied-natural-gas importation facility along the Delaware River in Philadelphia's Port Richmond section.

But although the nonbinding resolution declared Council's "unqualified opposition to any project that would create an LNG shipping terminal within the City of Philadelphia," several of those who supported the measure moved quickly to add qualifications.

"I've made no commitment for or against it - I would just like to be fully informed," Councilman Jack Kelly said.

"I'm willing to revisit the issue if there's some reasonable response from PGW," said Councilman Darrell L. Clarke, who also criticized the utility for not providing enough information.

Even Councilwoman Joan L. Krajewski, who represents the neighborhood and has warned of the dangers that she says will accompany the facility, said she still expected Council to hold hearings after the city-owned utility strikes a deal with an energy firm to build the facility.

But why pass a resolution that promises "not to enact any legislation to implement" that project if you still intend to hold hearings?

"To be fair," Krajewski said, "so everyone will know about it."

Nonetheless, Krajewski said the vote represented the wishes of residents who have worried that the effort could lead to environmental disaster, terrorist attacks, or traffic that gets snarled if security requirements mandate that bridges close when liquefied-natural-gas tankers pass.

Krajewski's cosponsor, Councilman Frank DiCicco, said he thought there would always be enough votes to stop the effort. Under city law, Council would have to OK any contract to build the facility.

The vote came two weeks after Krajewski agreed to delay the resolution in the face of massive lobbying by Mayor Street, labor unions and Hess LNG, which is believed to be the front-runner for the contract.

At the time, Krajewski said she was agreeing to the delay because two colleagues - Clarke and Blondell Reynolds Brown - said they needed to learn more about it. Krajewski and Clarke both said yesterday that PGW had not provided the information they sought.

Yesterday's vote appeared to catch many of Krajewski's colleagues by surprise. The councilwoman huddled in the back of the chambers with a succession of Council members, several of whom pressed to delay again.

But in the end, only Council members Michael A. Nutter and Rick Mariano voted against the measure. "I literally don't know that much about it," said Nutter, who declared himself undecided. "I'm not going to close my eyes to a proposal that I don't know that much about." Mariano, who has avoided the media since his federal corruption indictment last fall, did not respond to questions from reporters. But as he cast his vote in Council, he said: "I'm with Nutter."

Contact staff writer Michael Currie Schaffer at 215-854-4565.


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Last modified: 16 January 2006

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