SOUTH PORTLAND — A controversial proposal to build a liquefied petroleum gas depot at Rigby Yard is missing more than 20 documents, architect’s drawings and other items necessary for city officials to complete a formal review as required under municipal ordinances, city planners said.

City Planner Tex Haeuser has sent a letter to NGL Supply Terminal Co. seeking a wide variety of information, such as how many rail tank cars would be allowed to queue up at the 10-acre depot and what kind of piping system would be used to fill tank trucks.

Haeuser also sought a “detailed, step-by-step narrative, accompanied by plan details, describing the rail car offloading, storage and truck loading of (liquefied propane) from site arrival to departure from the site.”

It’s common for applicants to submit proposals that lack information and for city planners to send letters outlining what’s needed to conduct a formal review, said Community Planner Stephen Puleo.

“This is not an unusual approach,” Puleo said Friday. “Our role is to make sure we’re asking the right questions and getting complete responses before applicants appear before the Planning Board.”

Puleo acknowledged that city officials are being especially careful in reviewing the NGL proposal because it has generated a great deal of public concern since the company offered a preliminary proposal in February and then submitted a “substantially different” formal proposal in September.

Tensions heightened in October when an apparently divided City Council considered the possibility of enacting a six-month moratorium on fuel storage facilities to allow thorough study of the depot’s potential public safety, economic, environmental and legal impacts. The council is scheduled to hold another workshop on the NGL proposal and moratorium on Nov. 9.

NGL wants to build a propane depot at Rigby Yard because it must leave its existing terminal on Commercial Street in Portland before next spring. That’s where the state plans to expand the International Marine Terminal.

As of Friday afternoon, NGL had yet to respond to Haeuser’s Oct. 21 letter, so it’s unclear when the company’s proposal would be scheduled for a Planning Board hearing, Puleo said.

Some residents have expressed concern about the potential for a catastrophic explosion if the depot were built at Rigby Yard, a 245-acre industrial site that sprawls between the Cash Corner and Thornton Heights neighborhoods off Route 1.

A downsized formal proposal submitted last month reduced the maximum amount of propane that could be on the site in fixed storage tanks or queued-up rail tank cars from more than 1 million gallons to upwards of 744,000 gallons.

City Manager James Gailey has since received a verbal commitment from NGL representatives to reduce the number of filled, 30,000-gallon rail tank cars that would be allowed to queue up at the depot from 24 to 16. That would further reduce the depot’s total capacity to just over 500,000 gallons, including one fixed, 24,000-gallon storage tank. The preliminary proposal called for six 60,000-gallon storage tanks.

NGL is a subsidiary of NGL Energy Partners of Tulsa, Oklahoma, which includes Brunswick-based Downeast Energy. The company’s 4-acre facility in Portland has fixed storage for 280,000 gallons of propane and track capacity for eight cars.

Other items missing from NGL’s proposal for Rigby Yard include the maximum number, type and capacity of tank trucks that would be filled at the depot; details about signs, lighting, sound impacts and emergency systems for fire protection and leak detection; a fire risk analysis completed by an independent consultant; approvals from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and all other relevant agencies; and an architect’s elevation drawings and floor plans for the depot’s building.

In related news, the City Council will hold a workshop in early 2016, after the Nov. 3 municipal election and the holidays, to review public information and open meeting laws under Maine’s Freedom of Access Act, Gailey said.

The council’s conduct under the act has come under scrutiny since Councilor Brad Fox sent emails about NGL’s proposal to the entire council and other city officials. Some of the emails were critical of the proposal.

Councilor Claude Morgan said the emails potentially violated the act’s prohibition against using emails as a substitute for public deliberations, though Morgan said he had no evidence that Fox’s emails prompted a back-and-forth discussion among a quorum of councilors. At least three councilors suggested or asked that Fox stop sending mass emails to the council for fear they constituted illegal “meetings.”

Fox didn’t respond to several requests for comment Thursday and Friday. He has said that he believed the mass emails were protected free speech and that he simply intended to share information about the NGL proposal.

 


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