A proposal to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility on the site of a former South Jersey dynamite factory — just across the Delaware River from Ridley Township — is raising concerns, and with good reason.
In June, the Delaware River Basin Commission unanimously approved a plan to build a $96 million, 1,600-foot-long pier to service tankers at the proposed Greenwich Township facility. Citing safety, water quality, and other potential issues, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network has formally requested a review of that decision, as well as a second public hearing.
The merits of the proposal, which boosters say will create jobs and opponents fear will clog local roads with 360 LNG tanker trucks a day, are debatable. But the need for more public input is indisputable, regardless of the outcome. (Philadelphia City Council recently approved construction of an LNG production facility within the city limits, to the dismay of climate change activists.)
Nevertheless, the dramatic explosion and fire June 21 that forced the likely permanent shutdown of the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery complex just upriver in South Philly have elevated public worries about fossil fuels. And it’s hard to imagine a more timely reminder of the literal volatility of petroleum production and distribution, particularly in a densely populated urban area.
The South Jersey pier construction project by Delaware River Partners LLC does not call for building LNG storage facilities, let alone a refinery, on the site. “We have asked for permits to [transfer] LNG directly from truck or rail onto a waiting vessel,” company officials said Monday. The review and approval by the basin commission, which represents Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and New York, related only to the impact of building the wharf and dredging a 43-feet-deep connection to the river’s main channel.
As The Inquirer’s Andrew Maykuth has reported, Delaware River Partners’ export facility would serve the needs of a related company involved in Pennsylvania’s fracking boom. The partnership is owned by a hedge fund affiliated with New Fortress Energy, which proposes building a 3.6-million-gallon-per-day natural gas liquefaction plant in Bradford County. In securities filings, the firm said it plans to export LNG from a Delaware River port; NJ Spotlight subsequently reported that the Greenwich facility could export 1.67 million barrels of LNG per month.
Clearly there’s a need, from a business standpoint, for another distribution outlet for the fracking-related product the Trump administration likes to call “freedom gas.” Given what critics contend, fairly or not, has been a lack of transparency so far, the Delaware River Basin Commission and other regulatory agencies owe the public more chances to have a say about this latest LNG terminal plan.