Government

Providence Moves Closer to LPG Expansion Limits

Community opposition to fossil fuel expansion along Providence’s waterfront has been building for several years. In June, Terri Wright, an organizer with Direct Action for Rights and Equality, spoke to a crowd against more polluting industry within the Port of Providence. (Caitlin Faulds/ecoRI News)

PROVIDENCE — Marcia Taylor could read the signs from the open double doors as she peered into the third-floor committee room.

“No more pollution for the Port.” “Environmental justice for the Port.” “Protect the Port.”

The room filled up quickly Monday evening, capacity topped at nearly 25, and those early enough to claim seats passed out printer paper signs — a final back-of-the-room plea in bold black font.

Taylor was there five to 5 p.m., just as Providence Committee on Ordinances chairperson Nicholas Narducci pointed to the doorway and told the small gathering crowd to listen from the hall. So she did just that, proud to be without a seat.

“I care deeply about the whole issue of reducing fossil fuels … and my favorite thing about this meeting was that it was standing-room only,” the Providence resident said. “The public is here to say no to fossil fuel expansion here in the city of Providence and in the state of Rhode Island.”

Taylor wasn’t standing long — barely 15 minutes — before the City Council committee echoed public dissent.

After hearing hours of public comment nearly two weeks ago, the Committee on Ordinances moved swiftly and unanimously on Nov. 15 to pass a resolution and ordinance that could significantly limit the expansion of liquid propane gas, also called liquefied petroleum gas, (LPG) storage in the Port of Providence. Both items will move to the City Council, seeking approval twice over before potentially being signed into law by Mayor Jorge Elorza.

“This is definitely a step in the right direction,” City Council member Pedro Espinal said. “Living there myself I can see the negative impacts and effects of the expansion … that’s why we moved quickly to introduce this amendment.”

Ordinance 32292 would amend Chapter 27 of the Providence Code of Ordinances to prohibit the bulk storage of LPG in all city districts. The city code currently prohibits the bulk storage of liquefied natural gas in all districts. Extending the ban to include the bulk storage of LPG would further protect the environment and the people of Providence, Espinal said.

“We have already a lot of kids with asthma … and I think this is the best thing we can do together,” City Council member Carmen Castillo said.

Resolution 32299 requests the state’s Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB) commit to a full review of a LPG storage expansion proposed by Sea 3 Providence LLC, a subsidiary of New England propane provider Blackline Midstream LLC, operating out of the Port of Providence. In a petition last March, Sea 3 billed the expansion as an “insignificant modification to a major energy facility,” which therefore should not be subject to a full review by the EFSB.

The expansion would add six 90,000-gallon propane storage tanks to the facility, which currently hosts a 19-million-gallon cold-storage tank. The facility would also be linked up with a Port of Providence rail spur, opening it to rail shipments.

Community opposition to the expansion has grown in recent months, with many citing concern over the impact of fossil fuels on the health of portside neighborhoods and the increased potential for LPG accidents in an area shared by industry and residents.

“We’re happy that the City Council is finally addressing environmental justice and inequality in the South Side,” David Veliz, director of the Rhode Island Interfaith Coalition to Reduce Poverty, said. “We’re just happy to see the system working.”

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