Thursday, 4:30 PM
Off-shore LNG port approved
By Beth Daley, Globe Staff
The US Maritime Administration approved a liquefied natural gas port 13 miles off Gloucester Tuesday, one of two offshore LNG ports proposed in the last two years to help feed New England's growing energy demand.
The Neptune project, proposed by the same parent company that owns New England's only existing LNG terminal, in Everett, "will fill a vital role in meeting our national energy requirements for many years to come," said Maritime Administrator Sean T. Connaughton in his record of decision.
The approval was expected. Northeast Gateway, a similar project 7 miles off Gloucester, is expected to receive a decision in the next few weeks. At both sites, tankers would dock around the clock at underwater buoys to turn supercooled liquid back into a gas and pump it through pipes to New England homes and businesses. Neptune expects to be operational by 2009.
Former governor Mitt Romney signed off on both projects in December. While fishermen do not like the proposed ports because a security zone around the ports will exclude them from prime fishing grounds and others are worried about potential harm to federally endangered right whales, the projects have largely been seen as the lesser of two evils.
By agreeing to offshore plant sites, politicians hope to prevent terminals from being built near people, who could be in danger if there were a terrorist attack or catastrophic accident.
Although some residents near the Everett terminal hoped the offshore plants would mean fewer tankers passing through Boston Harbor, Neptune's developers reiterated Tuesday it would add to that supply --not replace it.
"We are extremely encouraged by the Maritime Administration's decision and look forward to having Neptune supplement our onshore LNG import terminal in Everett," to meet the growing demand for natural gas from consumers in the region, said Zin Smati, president and CEO chief executive of SUEZ Energy North America, the parent company of Neptune and the Everett facility.
Even though the Northeast Gateway project was in line to be approved first, Connaughton said his agency made Neptune a priority in part because SUEZ agreed that US mariners would make up 25 percent of the crew on Neptune's fleet of vessels by 2012 and 10 percent of crew on other vessels they charter.
Daley can be reached at email@example.com.