Adam Balsam makes a case in favor of LNG tankers on his blog:
“In order to ignite the LNG, it would have to be broken free from the multiple tanks which hold it on the ship, released and mixed with air (at a specific ratio – about 1 part NG to 9 parts air) and then be ignited. I have never seen a credible scientific paper published that proves this is even possible much less probable.
Furthermore, Lieutenant Erik Halvorson of the US Coastguard (the branch of our Military responsible for and entrusted with guarding us from such attacks) released the following statement:“we established a level of security to ensure the ship remains safe”
Are Mayor Menino and Councilor LaMattina then implying that we can’t trust the US Coast Guard? If so, we have a much bigger problem. Personally, I think there is a problem with Menino and LaMattina.”
Ouch. I believe the residents and politicians fully understand the risk of ignition is small, even minor. But if there were no risk, the Coast Guard would not be taking such extreme safety measures.
MIT Professor, LNG expert and former chair of MassPort, James Fay, explains the risk in the same MSNBC article cited by Balsam, citing the USS Cole terrorist attack in 2000. “There’s no doubt that with a big enough bomb you can blow a hole in the side of the vessel and the cargo will burn,” Fay said. “It’s well understood that for the big fires we’re talking about that distances like half a mile or so, you can get second-degree burns to exposed skin in about 30 seconds.” There also was a severe tragedy in Cleveland in 1944 when a damaged LNG tank leaked, creating a vapor cloud in the streets and sewers before igniting and killed 128 people.
Beyond public safety in such a densely populated area, there are also a significant quality-of-life issues for the surrounding North End/Charlestown/East Boston neighborhoods. When an LNG tanker comes through the harbor, public access in the harbor and on the waterfront is harshly impeded. Further, the LNG tankers hurt our property values and are inconsistent with the area’s tourist attractions. The LNG tankers negatively impact the public and recreational use of the harbor and waterfront which needs to be “secured” for extended periods every time an LNG tanker comes in and out.
Recently, the City helped arrange for most of the hazardous material trucks from going through downtown and the North End/Waterfront neighborhood. Instead, most were re-routed around the City. Those inside were directed away from the residential streets (and actually, the haz-mat trucks should even be moved off Atlantic Ave/Cross Street over to Congress Street, but that’s another issue).
Just as with the haz-mat trucks, there are much preferable options including off-shore unloading and a reduction in the number of deliveries. The U.S. also has plenty of its own natural gas, so importing it from foreign countries is not necessary.
In no other U.S. city are these gigantic LNG tankers allowed near such a densely populated area. Neither should they be in Boston.
Coast Guard to Allow Yemen LNG Tankers through Boston Harbor