Delaware River Partners purchased the DuPont’s former Repauno Works property in 2016, with original plans to redevelop it for mixed cargo, to transport products like cars and natural gas liquids like butane from one dock terminal.
In April of this year, however, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers public notice explained plans to build a second dock and included liquefied natural gas, or LNG, in a list of various cargoes. They went on to explain the products would get to the site by trucks or rail cars and be transferred to vessels. This development caused concern for Mary and David Rogers and other nearby Gibbstown residents.
Environmental organizations explained to a group at a public forum Monday that LNG is a flammable product that can be highly explosive.
” … And it’ll be coming through the communities across Pennsylvania and New Jersey down to the Gibbstown site, then it will be continuously loaded 24/7, 365 days a year, directly onto ships that are sitting on these docks,” said Tracy Carluccio, deputy director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network.
Washington D.C.-based hazardous materials expert Fred Millar was brought in by Empower NJ to share his expertise on what LNG is used for and its potential dangers.
“It’s a very concentrated, powerful form of energy. And when you get it out, say you export it to another country, they have a receiving facility that regasifies it, so it can be then sent out to homes as energy for heating,” said Millar. “LNG boils off into a vapor cloud, it’s cold and dense, it can go into your community very far distances, and then like it did in Cleveland, it can be held up or confined by a row of trees or by two houses or going into a ditch and then spontaneously explode. In Cleveland, it exploded in the sewer system and killed 127 people.”
That worries residents like the Rogers, who point to a daycare center and more homes located near the facility.
“In the middle of the winter time, you’re going to have a frozen road, trucks coming up and down, you’re going to have people in a hurry, who knows we’re going to end up having one of these big trucks coming through one of our houses,” said Mary Rogers. “It leaves me very unsettled it really does.”
The number of trucks that would be in the area if plans move forward is also unclear. According to a spokesperson for Delaware River Partners, a subsidiary of Fortress Transportation and Infrastructure Investors, the number of trucks entering and leaving the terminal are specified by the Army Corps.
The Army Corps public notice estimated an average of 15 trucks per hour, but Tracy Carluccio with Empower NJ says she’s seen documents which show the number of truck trips to the center will actually be 1,650 each day.
“The Army Corps should do a full environmental impact statement, and then everyone will know how many trucks are going to be going in, how many ships are going to be traveling on the river, what are they actually trying to do there. Right now, everything is under a cloak of secrecy and it’s not helpful,” said Carluccio.
Carluccio says if it wasn’t for the freedom of information act requests they filed, LNG would not have been part of the conversation to the public.
“I think they would be moving ahead with constructing the second dock right now,” she said.
The spokesperson for Delaware River Partners wrote in a statement the company “… will comply with all laws and regulations applicable to the handling of hazardous materials at the facility and such laws and regulations will ensure that any handling of any such products will be done safely and without incident.”
Carluccio says the company still has to receive several permits from the federal government as well as the state government.
Empower NJ plans to appeal permits that have already been granted and to fight the remaining applications.