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Two Liquid Natural Gas Tanks Proposed for Acushnet

An artist's depiction of the proposed tanks.

Liquid natural gas provides roughly 59 percent of New England’s electricity. Demand for this resource, which is piped in from out of state, has grown in recent years, but construction of new pipelines hasn’t kept pace.

ISO New England, which manages the region’s bulk power grid, says more natural gas pipelines are needed to meet consumer demand. But others, like Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy, are wary of increasing the region’s reliance on fossil fuels. In the South Coast town of Acushnet, Eversource wants to expand its gas facility there with two giant LNG storage tanks, and that’s drawing the ire of some local residents.

The utility is proposing two new tanks that would dwarf the two already there. Each would be roughly 170 feet high and over 200 feet in diameter. The tanks would be fed by a 3-mile pipeline running through parts of Freetown. Eversource and Spectra Energy estimate the $600-million dollar project would generate 250 temporary jobs, 25 permanent jobs, and would add between $10 million and $12-and-a-half million to Acushnet’s tax base.

A local group called South Coast Neighbors United, or SCNU, wants to stop the expansion. SCNU member Joe Carvalho said the group is concerned about threats to public safety.

“I’m concerned about what it would do to the environment, what it would do to public health in terms of methane gas releases…a whole host of things,” said Carvalho.

His group holds regular informational meetings as it gears up to try to block the project.

“Our basic goal is the education and information of the public,” Carvalho said. “And the more that people learn about it, the more they’re apt to say ‘We really don’t need this here.’”

Eversource and Spectra Energy have pledged that the siting process will be completely transparent, and they’re willing to meet with local residents.

David Wojnar, Chairman of the Acushnet Board of Selectmen, brought Eversource and SCNU members together at a recent Selectmen’s meeeting. 

“It’s important for them to start a dialog, and I’m going to invite them back in February to see what progress is made,” Wojnar said. “And I think at the end of the day, how committed groups are to communicating and talking with each other to understand the facts will determine their level of credibility.”

Wojnar said he’s looking closely at the Eversource proposal, but said the Board of Selectmen hasn’t taken a position on the LNG expansion.

“There hasn’t been enough information presented to date for me to say ‘Hell, no!’ and chain myself to the front of the facility. But by the same token, there hasn’t been enough information made available for me or the Board to pull out the pom-poms and be a cheerleader for this project,” said Wojnar.

Wojnar said whatever decision gets made, it will be in the best interests of the overall community. The LNG project is in the early stages of an examination process by The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which will ultimately determine the final outcome. The Town of Acushnet will also present its findings to the Commission as part of the process.