The Town Council questions plans from National Grid to amplify usage of the Old Mill Lane LNG facility, saying the utility giant should be focused on safety more, not the bottom line.
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NATIONAL GRID CONSIDERS BUYING HOMES
NEAR OLD MILL LANE LNG STATION
MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (NOVEMBER 15, 2021) – National Grid is looking at buying homes surrounding its Old Mill Lane facility to help improve natural gas service to Aquidneck Island.
According to a recent filing with the state Public Utilities Commission, the step would create more of a buffer between the liquified natural gas station and surrounding properties.
The move comes as National Grid plans on intensifying the use of the Old Mill Lane station on the southern end of Portsmouth to help avoid natural gas shutdowns like the one that hit Middletown and Newport in January 2019.
The item appeared before the Town Council Monday night for review as part of a briefing by Brian Schuster, National Grid Director of Customer Service & Community Management.
“We’re really trying to solve this challenge we have with capacity and vulnerability,” Schuster said.
Schuster said National Grid would be using the Old Mill Lane plant only in the colder months when the natural gas system needed on an indefinite basis.
If possible, National Grid would like to push the LNG plant itself back from Old Mill Lane to insulate it further from neighbors, particularly the sound of the operation, Schuster said. At certain times, starting up the LNG facility can sound like a “loud truck,” something Schuster acknowledged wasn’t ideal, particularly late at night.
Schuster said National Grid also looked at a “hybrid” solution, which had a new liquified natural gas plant operation cited on the former Middletown transfer site on Burma Road owned by the Navy. Based on detailed research, Schuster said that operation was not viable and cost prohibitive in the $100 million plus range. As a result, Schuster said the Old Mill Lane operation became the focus of all its energies to try to solve the ongoing gas woes.
In response, council members said they were concerned with National Grid’s plans to amplify the use of the Old Mill Lane facility, even though the operation was in Portsmouth.
Council Vice President Thomas Welch III and Councilman Dennis Turano said they didn’t understand why National Grid wasn’t pursuing the safest option instead of the least expensive route.
Council President Paul M. Rodrigues said based on maps he’s seen, if there was an accident at the Old Mill Lane site, it would have a significant impact on surrounding properties. Addressing Schuster directly, Rodrigues said Schuster and National Grid’s CEO would not live in such an area and it wasn’t something any residents should have to deal with either.
“We really don’t care if it costs you $100 million,” Rodrigues said. “If it’s safer, that’s what you guys should be doing.”
News of National Grid’s latest proposal first went live last month with several PUC filings. To read a report on those developments, visit https://www.middletownri.com/civicalerts.aspx?aid=527 online. To view the documentation from National Grid, check out https://mdl.town/OldMillLane online.
The fate of National Grid’s LNG service has been under the microscope since the January 2019 shutdown left more than 7,000 customers without gas service during an especially bad cold snap.
Previously, National Grid officials said the company was examining all reasonable options to address those issues. Those included intensifying use of the Old Mill Lane site, creating an LNG center at the Navy base, forming a new barge system in Narragansett Bay and building a new LNG pipeline, among others.
Of those options, National Grid paperwork indicated redoing the Old Mill Lane facility was the most timely and least expensive alternative at $53 million. To review those plans, visit https://mdl.town/NationalGridLNG online. To see a copy of the presentation from National Grid about the project, visit https://mdl.town/OMLStakeholder online.
In response, the Town has said National Grid should and must do better than simply augmenting use of the Old Mill Lane facility.
The Town is part of the process because of the potential impact of the project on the community. However, unlike neighboring Portsmouth where the LNG facility is based, Middletown does not have zoning oversight on the matter. Rather, it’s up to the Town Council only to provide Middletown’s official input.
“While the Old Mill Lane site is clearly in Portsmouth, that doesn’t mean the Town of Middletown won’t see very definite impacts from any intensification of use there,” Town Administrator Shawn J. Brown said previously. “Throughout this process, the Town of Middletown – and a number of other parties – have been quite clear that National Grid needs to find a more reasonable solution to this longstanding problem. They can’t just always take the path that costs the least and we’ve always said this needs to be in an industrial area, not a neighborhood surrounded by homes.”
No neighbors spoke during Monday’s session. Schuster said National Grid has talked with neighbors at Old Mill Lane and the former transfer station site.
In a later briefing on the matter, Town Solicitor Peter B. Regan said National Grid now has until April 4, 2022 to file the next set of paperwork concerning the Old Mill Lane operation. The Town has attorney Marisa Desautel in charge of handling the case.