Thursday, August 26, 2010

I Love Barney Frank

I have written before about the proposal by an outfit called Weaver's Cove to build a liquefied natural gas terminal (LNG) in Mount Hope Bay, My Bay. There has been much local opposition to the project. All sorts of objection have been raised, ranging from the dangers of LNG explosions, the possibility of terrorist attacks, the disruption to recreational boating during the passage of LNG tankers through Narragansett Bay, environmental impact, etc. etc.

It has been hard to sort out the real facts of the case. I do feel that the opponents of the Weaver's Cove project have occasionally been somewhat shrill in their complaints. There was one claim for example that little kiddie Optimist sailors on the bay would be threatened at gunpoint by military contractors who will be protecting the LNG tankers (presumably from 7-year-old suicide bombers in Optimists.) On the other hand, since the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico this summer I have become much more skeptical of the claims by Big Energy (Weaver's Cove is owned by Hess) that "we know what we're doing, it's all perfectly safe, you don't need to worry, accidents never happen."

On balance I would prefer it if they don't build the LNG terminal at all or, if they really have to do it, they choose an off-shore site well away from population centers. (The proposed site is very close to the city of Fall River which is at the head of Mount Hope Bay.)

The latest maneuver in the battle is from Congressman Barney Frank (whose congressional district includes Fall River.) According to this article...

Congressmen Barney Frank and James McGovern Thursday announced they will be including an amendment in the House appropriations bill for the Department of Energy stating that “no funds made available by the act may be used to take any action to authorize the construction of any liquefied natural gas terminal or its infrastructure to be located within five miles of the city of Fall River, Massachusetts, or to authorize vessels carrying liquefied natural gas to serve such terminal.”

The congressmen said the move would effectively block the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission from spending any money to deliberate the proposed project, including the approval of the off-shore berthing site designed for Mount Hope Bay. Frank said the bill has bi-partisan support, including the backing of Republican U.S. Senator Scott Brown, and described the action as veto proof.

I love it. Everyone howls when members of congress include earmarks and pork in appropriation bills to route federal funds to pet projects in their districts. But this is "negative pork." Instead of saying, "Spend money on my district," Barney is saying, "Don't you dare spend federal money on this project in my district."

I'm sure this isn't the end of the story. Hess has shown remarkable persistence in pushing this project in spite of all the local opposition. But for now...

I love Barney Frank.


PeconicPuffin said...

He's one of my favorite congressmen. Certainly one of the smartest. Also he'll speak plainly and sharply...did you catch him responding to a tea-partier who said President Obama's policies were Nazi-like by asking her what planet she was from?

Tillerman said...

Yes Puffin, I did see that. For anyone who missed it, it's on YouTube at It's bad enough that that crazy women was saying that health care reform was "Nazi" and that she was carrying a picture of the President of the USA defaced to look like Hitler, but then she had the gall to spout that nonsense to a Jewish congressman. No wonder he reacted the way he did.

There's another great put-down in that video. "Ma'am, trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table." Love it!

Baydog said...

For me, there's only one obvious, glaring, unavoidable problem with Barney Frank.

He's a Patriots fan

Tillerman said...

Yeah, but I think I can forgive him that. Foxboro is in his district. I mean, how is he going to get elected without claiming to be a Patriots fan?

But wait, there is something far worse about him... he was born in New Jersey.

Baydog said...

I was born in Philadelphia, another place you could do without, because hey, how many times can you see the Liberty Bell?

But you do like New Jersey, don't you?

Tillerman said...

Do I like New Jersey? It's good in parts.

Brian said...

Uh, does no one remember who "rolled the dice" on Fannie/Freddie????

Tillerman said...

Uh oh. Brian doesn't love Barney. I knew it was a mistake to write this post. It was bound to piss off somebody.

I think I'll go sailing now.

O Docker said...

It's sad that law in this country so favors monied interests that we have to resort to ploys like Frank's just to maintain a balance sometimes.

Our law generally allows commercial interests to do what they want with land if they have the money to do it. Despite all of the reasons for opposing the project that you mention, I'd guess that most people are against it simply because it would be ugly as hell and too 'commercial' for the area.

But 'ugly as hell' has never been a valid legal defense in this country, so environmentalists and community groups have to scrounge for arguments that will hold up in court.

One of the things I like about Europe (or at least about many of the parts I've visited - in Italy, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria) is that land use seems to be far more controlled there. You can't just pave over a forest or build an eyesore wherever you like, if you own the land.

In the US, it seems that wanting to keep a bay looking like a bay just for its own sake is legally indefensible.

Living in California and watching what land developers are allowed to do here has made this one of my hot buttons.

Tillerman said...

Actually O Docker, I'm not sure that aesthetics are at the base of the objections to this project. Although you can't see it from my house, the north end of Mount Hope Bay is dominated by a huge coal-fired power station. Not at all a pretty site. The proposed LNG terminal would sit in front of the power station and, I'm guessing, would not significantly worsen the already ugly view.

No, I think that the stated reasons are the real reasons. Risk of explosion by accident or terrorist attack, disruption to boat and road traffic, environmental damage, etc.

There is also a strong local feeling that hey, this is our bay, who gave Hess the right to build something in the middle of it?

However, I do think your comments about aesthetics being the real unstated reason for objections is applicable to another local project, the proposed wind farm in Nantucket Sound.

Baydog said...

I'm sometimes a little slow. Tillerman, could you elaborate or expand on your opinion or position on the proposed Nantucket Wind Farms?

Tillerman said...

For it.

I am naturally prejudiced in favor of projects based on renewable sources of energy (e.g. wind) as opposed to fossil fuels (e.g. LNG.) And I'm not convinced that any of the arguments against the Cape Wind project (mainly advanced by moneyed interests on the south coast of Cape Cod whose view would be slightly affected) are strong enough to persuade me to oppose the project.

Baydog said...

Slightly affected if at all, if you ask me. The wind turbines are a beautiful sight to me. There's something calming about seeing huge rotors moving silently and cleanly, producing energy. If they're bombed, there's likely no explosions, no radio-active leakage, no massive evacuations.

Solar and wind. Let's go with it.

Dennis @ Marine Electronics said...

You love Barney Frank. And Barney Frank loves Weaver's Cove. What ever Hon. Frank's motives are for adding this language to the bill, I approve. Nothing ruins a good recreational/natural habitat faster then energy projects like this.

Carol Anne said...

Renewable energy alternatives are good, provided they're well thought out. For example, an industrial plant in Albuquerque just installed a massive solar installation over its parking lot. So now, instead of baking employees' cars, the sun is providing power for the plant. The estimate before the solar array was installed was that it would provide 80% of the plant's electricity needs. However, in the first month of operation, it provided 120%, with the power company paying for the electricity that was fed into the grid.

On the other hand, there are some places that are not appropriate for renewable energy operations. The Lesser Prairie Chicken, a seriously endangered bird and the most beautiful member of the grouse family, will not nest near anything tall, since tall trees are where predatory birds come from. While most of eastern New Mexico and west Texas are appropriate for wind farms, the turbines need to be kept out of prime prairie chicken habitat.

However, as far as I know, there are no prairie chickens in Nantucket Sound.

Tillerman said...

The Lesser Prairie Chicken is known for its lekking behavior.

A lek is a gathering of males, of certain animal species, for the purposes of competitive mating display. Leks assemble before and during the breeding season, on a regular basis. The same group of males meet at a traditional place and take up the same individual positions on an arena, each occupying and defending a small territory or court. Intermittently or continuously, they spar individually with their neighbors or put on extravagant visual or aural displays, vocal challenges, etc.

Lekking is, of course, the origin of the so-called sport of American football.

Not many people know that.

I think I'll go sailing now.

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