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Posted on Thu, Sep. 08, 2005

Passing of tankers could affect I-95

A police official said securing an LNG terminal proposed for Port Richmond would require stopping some traffic.

By Frederick Cusick
Inquirer Staff Writer

Security for a proposed liquefied-natural-gas terminal in Port Richmond would require shutting down traffic on part of I-95 when tankers carrying the fuel move on the river, a city police official said last night.

Chief Inspector Joseph O'Connor's remark about the highway closing drew groans from about 200 people attending a community meeting at Bridesburg Recreation Center about the proposed terminal.

O'Connor, who heads the department's Special Operations Unit and is responsible for counterterrorism efforts, said that when tankers bearing liquefied natural gas, or LNG, go into Boston - which has long had a terminal that handles the fuel - police close a major bridge.

He said "the Philadelphia Police Department will provide whatever kind of security is needed to make these kind of operations safe."

The Philadelphia Gas Works, which already operates two 25 million-gallon liquefied-natural-gas tanks in the area, hopes to make an extra $25 million annually by renting the tanks to an outside party that would bring the super-cooled gas up the river in tankers. Under the plan, three tankers a month would dock at the Tioga terminal, and the fuel would be transported by pipeline to the utility's two holding tanks across the street.

The problem is that many observers have suspected that the tankers, which are about 900 feet long, can cause catastrophic fires when breached.

And in the post-9/11 atmosphere, there is even greater concern about their vulnerability and about locating terminals to handle the fuel in developed areas.

In Bridesburg and Port Richmond, where many residents feel they already have more than their share of toxic and dangerous industries, the idea of a liquefied-natural-gas terminal faces additional opposition.

Doug Oliver, who represented PGW at last night's meeting, said the city-owned utility sees the terminal deal as a way of helping with the burden of rising natural gas prices.

The proposal is in the early stages and no contract has yet been signed with an outside party, although port-community sources have said PGW is negotiating with Hess LNG to develop and operate the terminal.

PGW, Oliver told residents last night, views the deal as "an opportunity to bring more supply into the region and to create a funding stream that will lower your bills."

"If it cannot be done safely, it will not be done," Oliver assured the audience.

Comments from politicians who represent the area were generally negative.

City Councilwoman Joan L. Krajewski got a loud round of applause when she told the audience: "Bridesburg and Port Richmond will not be a dumping ground, I assure you."

State Rep. John Taylor (R., Phila.) reiterated his opposition. "I see no reason to do it," he said. But then he added: "It's early."

Taylor said earlier that he expected the issue to be studied and dealt with for a long time.

Contact staff writer Frederick Cusick at 215-854-4449.

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Last modified: 22 October 2005

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