LNG vs NIMBY: An Incomplete Debate

Watching the recently televised debate between Hess and Save The Bay, I was reminded of last month’s public forum hosted by the Alliance For A Livable Newport at CCRI. During both talks, I asked myself the same nagging question: Why, when there are so many reasons that the company shouldn’t ship liquefied natural gas (LNG) through the Mt. Hope Bay, are the most compelling ones being left unsaid?

Perhaps it’s because, in attempt to garner the widest possible support from residents, Save The Bay is only considering the local impact of the proposed terminal. Such a strategy would allow them to list the dangers to the environment, economy, and way of life of Rhode Islanders, while avoiding the messy national and global politics tied to the issue… But would this be the wisest move?

Framing the problem exclusively in local terms will give opponents the chance to dismiss us as “Not In My Backyard” (NIMBY) obstructionists who oppose the project simply because Hess wants their terminal here. I’m afraid that, no matter how many excellent points are made (and, thus far, Save The Bay has made a ton of them), the anti-LNG movement won’t be able to shed the NIMBY label if its perspective isn’t broadened.

The truth is that the entire fossil fuel industry is a “dirty” business and shouldn’t be in anyone’s backyard:

1) Dirty extractions – A controversial new type of gas drilling known as fracking threatens to contaminate the drinking water of those living in or near the Marcellus Shale region stretching from Kentucky to New York. An empty promise of slightly cheaper energy prices in the short-term or potable water, which would you prefer? Hmm, tough call.

2) Dirty uses – Hess likes to trumpet the claim that natural gas is the most environmentally friendly fossil fuel, ignoring the fact that an LNG terminal still emits several million tons of Co2 per year. With environmental friends like that, who needs enemies? Let alone clean, safe and renewable alternatives like solar and wind that are also cheaper in the long run!

3) Dirty deals – To protect their investments, which they often need to do since items 1 and 2 usually make their products so undesirable, multinational (i.e. mostly un-American) companies like Hess rely on governments for help. Here in the US, Hess is free to search for a new LNG site due to a loosening of federal regulations, which gives them nearly complete immunity from disasters caused by the project. Not to mention the military protection they’ll receive during transport of the potentially-terrorist-targeted cargo from Yemen (where al-Quaeda members are currently located). In other words, they make the profit while taxpayers and soldiers take on the risk. Sounds like a win-win, right?

Nothing about the above list is good (and this was just from the US perspective — if you think our country has it bad when it comes to dealing with the fossil fuel industry, you don’t know the half of it), which is why all the dirty laundry must be aired in public forums. If there is indeed a fear that these sorts of things should be omitted from any anti-LNG discussion for the sake of political correctness, it’s unwarranted. I may be naive, but I believe the concepts of peace and environmental and economic justice are non-partisan if not apolitical. They’re not about what’s right or left, but what’s right or wrong.

In my opinion, it’s much more naive to think we can solve big problems without looking at the big picture. Even if the NIMBY arguments prove successful and Hess is turned back this time around, it might not scare away another giant corporation from trying to force another terrible product upon us that we don’t need. However, despite what appears to be a grim outlook for the Ocean State (or maybe because of it), we now have an opportunity to come together and send a powerful message that can stop the oligarchs in their tracks… As long as we’re willing to speak up.

4 Responses to “LNG vs NIMBY: An Incomplete Debate”

  1. Susan Maloney Says:

    Great article Kevin. Keep up the interest in fighting LNG…we all are in this together!

  2. Susan Maloney Says:

    Keep up the fight Kevin…we are all in this together to stop LNG!

  3. John Martin Says:

    Some very good points, indeed. I don’t disagree, but Save The Bay exists because our backyard is worth protecting. We think out backyard is worth preserving and we think out backyard is worth restoring.

  4. Paul Warrender Says:

    Kevin Faria, thanks so much for bringing this EXTREMELY relative point into the open. I am a Rhode Island native transplanted to central New York state (I live in Ithaca, NY) which also happens to be THE hot-bed region for possible hydro-frack drilling for natural gas, as we sit on the heart of the Marcellus Shale gas-find region. Trust me, this issue is just as red-hot here as the LNG tanker issue is there. (By the way, I lived both in Bristol and Barrington for close to two-thirds of my life, and enjoyed fishing and boating in Narragansett Bay as much as anyone.)

    Many of us here who monitor this situation as well as other energy/environment impact issues were a bit taken aback by Rhode Island State Representative Deb Ruggiero’s comment that basically says that there is no need for LNG ships in Narragansett Bay as “natural gas is being recovered from the recently found Marcellus shale deposits, one of the largest in the world, in New York state and Pennsylvania. This increase in domestic natural gas production will decrease all LNG imports in the northeast.”

    Link: http://warwickonline.com/bookmark/6763211/article-Short-term%20LNG%20jobs%20are%20not%20sustaining … See More

    For those crying about calling this a NIMBY issue, look at it from this perspective: Do we allow these profoundly dangerous and distracting shipments of LNG to enter Narragansett Bay? Or do we allow this incredibly pollutive hydrofracking drill process to take place and absolutely FOUL the water supplies for millions of citizens from New York to Kentucky, not to mention ruin some of the richest and most productive agricultural regions in the northeastern United States?

    The truth is, neither will support the long-term energy needs of the ENTIRE northeast region (unless you want to believe the energy merchants themselves, like HESS!), and will endanger millions of peoples lives, livelyhoods, eco-systems, recreation opportunities, and ultimately local economies as the REAL impacts of either one of these avenues will eventually need to be addressed.

    One thing for sure: I’ve not heard or read ANYONE here in this region talk about how we should’nt worry because LNG will be shipped up Narragansett Bay. Think about that.

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