New York moved toward lifting its four-decade-long ban on storing liquefied natural gas, with the state Department of Environmental Conservation proposing regulations for siting new facilities earlier this week.
The storage of liquefied natural gas, or LNG, has been prohibited in New York since the mid-1970s, when a major explosion of an LNG tank left 40 workers dead at a plant on Staten Island in 1973. Since there are no fueling stations in New York, the storage ban has effectively kept large, LNG-fueled trucks and cargo vehicles out of the state.
Several companies looking to build LNG fueling stations or power their fleets with the fuel have pushed the Legislature to lift the storage ban over the past two years, but the bill hasn’t moved out of the state Assembly. The DEC’s action, if finalized, would eliminate the need for legislation, though some critics said the legislation included more safety measures.
“Allowing the construction and operation of new LNG facilities will provide environmental and economic benefits for New York while ensuring public safety,” DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens said in a statement. “Lower emissions resulting from burning natural gas as a fuel will provide significant benefits to the environment and public health.”
The proposed rules would allow for the construction of new LNG facilities, but would require them to be permitted by the DEC and submit to regular inspections. A ban would remain in place for New York City.
The regulations will likely face opposition from groups opposed to hydraulic fracturing, who have been wary of increasing the state’s demand for natural gas while it remains under a de facto moratorium on shale-gas drilling.
Russ Haven, legislative council for the New York Public Interest Research Group, raised concerns about the proposed rules, which he said don’t go beyond the “bare basics in terms of public health and safety requirements or limiting the size of facilities.”
“Even with the energy industry, there was a willingness to discuss capping the size of facilities, increasing buffer zones to make sure there’s more distance between facilities and the public as an added measure of safety,” Haven said. “I don’t see any of that in (the proposed rules). That was a surprise.”