SOUTH PORTLAND — Your recent editorial regarding liquefied petroleum gas storage in Rigby Yard (“Our View: South Portland owes gas company a fair process,” Jan. 19), and Tom Bell’s news article (“Fight in Maine over new propane terminal worries industry, threatens higher prices,” Jan. 18), were jumbles of misinformation and advocacy. There is no comment or analysis from anyone who questions the industry’s position; the pieces read as if they were taken directly from an industry news release.

We are neither anti-propane nor opposed to a new, properly scaled and located facility. It is simply against South Portland ordinance – not to mention unethical – to put hundreds of thousands of gallons of liquefied petroleum gas next to a fire station, a recycled oil facility and people’s homes. Your concept of economic sense does not trump our residents’ safety and the protection of our critical infrastructure.

Rigby Yard in South Portland is not NGL’s only option for relocation. There are several possible sites in the region that are safer, including along the state-owned Mountain Division Railroad Line.

No one is cutting off anyone’s propane. Not only is there no propane shortage for the foreseeable future, but with the increase in domestic drilling, there is an oversupply. The U.S. has exported propane for the past four years. Indeed, the SEA-3 terminal near Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is expanding operations to become an exporter from within our own region.

Further, if bad weather disrupts the transport of propane by rail throughout Maine, it has nothing to do with storage or NGL’s plan. Rather, it is because, in part, Pan Am has not installed heated rail switches, and consequently, rail tanker cars become stranded in Rigby Yard. In a real emergency, propane from these rail cars can be transloaded into tanker trucks.

NGL has no right to store more than 74,805 gallons of liquefied petroleum gas in Rigby Yard unless it seeks a zoning change. Starting in May 2014, before any contact with South Portland officials, NGL set plans to build an oversized liquefied petroleum gas terminal there, apparently with no intention of following the proper procedure for requesting this zoning change.


The scale of this liquefied petroleum gas facility has an explosive potential measured in kilotons 500 feet from people’s homes. Any propane rail car or transloading accident could result in a devastating explosion and fire. Such accidents have been documented repeatedly, but you fail to mention any of them. Instead, both the editorial and the news article focus on imaginary propane shortages rather than the real danger to our residents.

NGL’s plans call for 16, 30,000-gallon propane rail tank cars to be pumped at high volume through a smaller, 24,000-gallon fixed tank, then into 10,000-gallon tanker trucks. The fixed tank will be used essentially as a pipe to load tank truck after tank truck of propane as a way to circumvent our local ordinances. This is a dangerous and untested plan.

The proposed fire code safety amendment under council consideration is designed to meet the strict scrutiny of the federal Surface Transportation Board and possible court challenges. It’s predicated on protecting infrastructure, and therefore residents, from explosions and fires.

Yet somehow your editorial concludes that the City Council’s attempts to enforce ordinances and update the fire code to protect residents and infrastructure are unfair. Citizens’ health and safety are the No. 1 priority of all of our city councilors, as well as their sworn duty.

When a number of us walked the streets in the neighborhood next to Rigby Yard, we met dozens of residents who hadn’t heard about the NGL proposal. One woman we stopped while walking her dog told us, “We’re too busy working, taking care of our families and trying to make ends meet to follow the news. No one told us about this plan.”

Other residents were concerned about their property values going down and their homeowners insurance policies going up. Most people we spoke with were terrified by the possibility of a large explosion and fire that would kill or maim them and their families. It’s not as if this hasn’t happened before.

We are up against a billion-dollar corporation that uses every means at its disposal – including outright deception – to put an illegal, massive propane tank facility next to a South Portland neighborhood without thorough and critical review. We expect better from the Portland Press Herald than industry propaganda passing as journalism.


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