Savannah People are Still Worrying and Not Happy with the LNG Proposal


There's outrage brewing among Savannahians. They expressed their negative feelings to the federal regulators with regards to hauling liquefied natural gas through their city. They are simply against of the whole idea that dangerous materials are passing through their city.

A lot of them have requested for comprehensive study of worst-case scenarios while extending their own evaluation that the uncertainties were too great.

A Savannah resident , Kent Harrington, who is also experienced in crisis management, spoke at length from footnoted remarks, more often addressing the staffers from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission openly.

"I believe there is only one question that should wake you up at night," Harrington said. "'What will be the costs in human lives and property if I make the wrong choice?'"

Harrington elaborated an LNG trucking mishap in Tivissa, Spain, in 2002. He said a tanker carrying 12,000 gallons of LNG flipped over and caught fire on a mountainous road. The fire resulted to what's technically known as boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion, killing the driver instantaneously and lethally burning two people more than two football fields away from the truck. The truck's engine was blasted 842 feet away; slivers from the tank flew 150 to 400 feet.

"In light of the Spanish experience, is this the kind of risk FERC wants to put on the streets of Savannah?" Harrington asked. "... I hope not."

Harrington's speech received wild applause from more than 100 people in the meeting room of the Hilton Garden Inn Midtown.

The meeting was publicized as an opportunity for regulators to get residents' input on what to include in an environmental assessment of a proposal to re-open the truck-loading facility at Elba Island. Danny Laffoon, a FERC staffer who led the meeting, said that document will include a safety assessment of the trucking route.

It was in August that Southern LNG declared its aim to re-open the truck-loading facility at Elba, where it imports liquefied natural gas. Methane – the fuel that's super cooled and becomes condensed m - at present delivered in by ship as a liquid and travels as vapor in pipeline.

The start-up Southeast LNG that will run the trucking operation is a new venture planned to supply what the company wishes will be a rising market of LNG-fueled trucks, buses, and waste-haulers in Georgia and nearby states. Re-liquifying the vapor needs to much energy and is quite expensive after it's been piped to its destination. This is the reason why the company opt to haul it out as a liquid in double-walled, 13,000-gallon tanker trucks. The company calculated that it will start with around 8 to 10 trucks a day and will increase to 58 truckloads daily along the most favored route of DeRenne Avenue.

The preferred route was already a congested roadway. It is lined with hospitals, neighborhoods, schools, business establishments, and a military base. This is the source of much the public's fury.

"The core problem is that Elba Island is on the east-side of the city and there is no route through this city that does not present a risk to some neighborhood," said Bill Durrence.

Durrence had done his homework on LNG, describing the industry's worst accidents, such as an LNG explosion in Algeria that had 27 casualties in 2004 and an infamous Cleveland incident that took the life of 128 people in 1944.

Virginia Mobley, also a Savannah resident, drew on her knowledge of disaster response and taught the crowd about the suggested response to an LNG spill and fire. Reading from the federally-produced Emergency Response Guidebook on hazardous materials, she said: "If a tanker truck is involved in a fire, isolate one mile in all directions. Consider evacuating one mile in all directions."

Mobley said that the 1958 Meldrim train derailment and fire that killed 23 people involved a fuel - liquid petroleum - that's in the same hazmat class as LNG.

She then asked: "What if an LNG truck had an accident on DeRenne?"

"We could not secure the lives of the patients at one hospital in the time it would take for a flash fire to kill," she said. "We would be just like the folks in Meldrim."

Savannah officials admit they were surprised by Southern LNG's request, when the Elba facility re-opened in 2001, city leaders thought there is a clear understanding not to haul LNG through the city.

Bruce Hughes, Southeast LNG president countered, " now that wasn't a forever pledge."

Fred Millar a hazmat transportation consultant who aided Washington, D.C. -- get chlorine rail cars re-routed around that city – was hired by Savannah as a consultant to help develop its response to the proposal. Millar earlier collaborated with the environmental group Friends of the Earth. Millar will lead a town hall meeting at 7 p.m. Oct. 7 at the Civic Center to talk about concerns regarding the LNG trucking proposal.

Council Member Edna Jackson spoke on behalf of the mayor and city council, repeating much of what citizens had said and requesting that FERC open about critical infrastructure -- to the city information -- that cannot be released in public documents for security reasons.

Council Member Jeff Fellser went to the podium and commented El Paso representative Hughes had mad a presentation to council earlier this month that gave a message in the end as if saying for the people "not to worry, be happy."

Fellser addressed Hughes saying, "I can tell you we are worried, and we're not happy."