July 9, 2008

‘Wild’ Push Against Mass. LNG Plan Nixed

By Jay Fitzgerald, Boston Herald

Jul. 9--Fall River's industrial and residential waterfront might not be declared "wild and scenic" after all.

Congressional Republicans have forced U.S. Rep. Barney Frank to yank -- at least temporarily -- a controversial bill that some say is merely using lofty conservation rhetoric to block a proposed LNG facility on the southeastern Massachusetts city's waterfront.

Frank's bill, which would slap environmental restrictions on the proposed liquefied natural gas site along the Taunton River, was due to come to a vote today in the House in Washington, D.C.

But Peter Kovar, Frank's chief of staff, said the Newton Democrat decided to pull the legislation because GOP members were "attempting to make it a national issue" by claiming Democrats weren't serious about passing energy-related legislation.

"It became politicized and we had to deal with it," said Kovar of the decision to put off a vote on the bill. Frank and supporters will "strategize" in coming weeks about how to revive the legislation, which Kovar said he's still confident will pass one day.

Mike Steel, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), said the bill was clearly aimed at killing the proposed LNG facility, which Frank and Fall River political leaders oppose.

At a time of skyrocketing home-heating and electricity prices in New England, passage of such as bill was "pretty counterproductive," said Steel.

Kovar said the idea of declaring portions of the Taunton River "wild and scenic," and thus qualifying for federal protection, originally had nothing to do with the LNG dispute. But he acknowledged Frank didn't mind that it had the effect of all but killing the LNG plan backed by the Hess oil conglomerate.

The U.S. Coast Guard has already expressed reservations about navigation and safety issues related to building a new LNG facility along the Taunton River, he said.


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