STATE HOUSE – In comments submitted to the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Sen. Harold M. Metts and Rep.
Joseph S. Almeida called the Fields Point LNG facility “environmental
injustice,” and argued that FERC assessment failed to support its conclusion to
The two Providence legislators, both of whom
represent the neighborhoods surrounding the proposed facility, submitted the
comments in response to FERC’s environmental assessment for the project, issued
last month. The report is one of the final steps in the approval process, which
is expected to conclude with a decision as soon as next month.
Despite listing and not refuting the many
reasons residents and advocates have argued that the proposal would
disproportionately burden minorities and low-income populations, and not
offering any reason that some other matter outweighs their importance, the
assessment still concludes the proposal “does not have disproportionately high
and adverse impacts on environmental justice populations.”
In their comments, Senator Metts and
Representative Almeida say the assessment’s lack of evidence to back up its
determination smacks of a foreordained outcome.
It “seems very much as if the conclusion was
so predetermined that there was no need to even look for some pretense to
support it. That is a disgrace to this process, and neglectful of your duty to
consider the unfair impact on the thousands of Providence residents whose
health and lives, already threatened by industrial and other activity in this
neighborhood, will be further imperiled by this proposal,” they wrote in their
comments to FERC.
“The assessment includes the census data
showing that the majority of the population in most census tracks within a mile
of the proposed site are minorities, with several being almost entirely
minority members. (One is 99 percent minorities.) It also includes the percentage
of each track’s population that is considered low-income, with about half of
the tracks registering low-income populations above 50 percent,” they wrote.
“Indeed, as you note, many commenters said
these oppressed populations would disproportionately bear the adverse health
and economic impacts of pollution or catastrophic events from this project.
This community already experiences higher rates of asthma and other conditions
related to pollution. It also already bears the burden of the existing LNG
facilities in the area, plus other industrial activities and pollution from
Route 95, which runs through its core.”
While the assessment notes that the presence
of the existing LNG infrastructure in the neighborhood means the proposal does
not introduce a “new” type of use to the neighborhood, the legislators say
that’s no reason the area should have to endure more of it.
“Such a statement equates to saying that
because our health and safety are already compromised, we should be the ones
who must be exposed to further risk. Just because our largely poor, minority
community is already polluted and unsafe doesn’t mean it does not matter if you
allow this large corporation to make it more polluted and unsafe,” they wrote.
“In short, your conclusion that there is not a
disproportionate impact on an environmental justice population is unsupported.
This proposal is designed to let big business make more money by siting its
more dangerous infrastructure in a poor, minority neighborhood that it hopes
won’t have the power to object. We do object, and we will continue to raise our
voices loudly against this environmental injustice,” they concluded.
The environmental assessment is available here. FERC is accepting additional comments until
Wednesday. The introduction to the report includes instructions for submitting