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Posted on Fri, Dec. 02, 2005

Liquefied gas plan closer to approval

By Jennifer Lin The Coast Guard's preliminary backing of a Delaware River terminal for ship deliveries has key security conditions.

The Coast Guard yesterday gave energy giant BP preliminary approval to bring liquefied natural gas tankers up the Delaware River to Gloucester County with two big ifs:

BP has to implement "necessary" security measures.

And someone has to come up with the money to pay for them.

The Coast Guard did not identify where the money would come from, but made clear that the project is conditioned on finding the funding.

A BP spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a statement, Capt. David Scott, the Coast Guard's lead officer for the Delaware River port system, said: "This is just one of many complex steps in the LNG terminal approval process."

A committee of 20 law enforcement, security and public-safety officials from federal, state and local agencies spent four months reviewing the security risks of a terminal, Scott said. It concluded that with proper precautions, the terminal could handle two or three LNG carriers a week, as BP has proposed.

The Coast Guard's security review is critical for BP's Crown Landing project in Logan Township to move forward. It is part of an environmental-impact statement of the project being compiled by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

"This assessment becomes one of many factors that FERC takes into account before permitting an LNG terminal," Scott said.

While the commission is responsible for regulating the terminal, the Coast Guard has the job of securing the nation's waterways against terrorism. Homeland-security experts have warned that because of the nature of the cargo, tankers carrying liquefied natural gas could cause catastrophic harm if sabotaged by terrorists.

Only four U.S. ports handle such shipments. In Boston, the Coast Guard and armed police marine units escort the tankers.

Scott said the Coast Guard's review committee presented him last week with a range of measures that would be needed to "responsibly manage" the risks posed by these vessels.

But exactly what those measures are, the Coast Guard wouldn't say.

The Coast Guard said in its statement: "The details of these measures can't be publicly divulged." Scott added that they are based on the opinions of many agencies. Generally, such measures include:

Creating a safety zone around the carriers and standards for securing tankers carrying hazardous materials.

Drawing up a traffic-management plan for the waterway.

Escorting vessels with armed law enforcement agents.

Implementing additional shoreline and waterway surveillance.

"Under normal security conditions, these measures should not affect vehicular traffic, nor restrict the public's access to shore-side recreation sites or unreasonably impede recreational boating," Scott said.

The next step is to obtain extra funding for these security measures, he said.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in the meantime, has agreed to hear arguments in a brewing border war between New Jersey and Delaware over the terminal. Delaware has acted to block the facility, saying its 1,900-foot pier would extend into its waters and violate the state's Coastal Zone Act.

Contact staff writer Jennifer Lin at 215-854-5659.

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Last modified: 11 December 2005

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