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The News Journal
December 15, 2004
Section: News
Page: A18

OUR VIEW

DNREC Decides: BP deserves prompt answer on whether it fits in Coastal Zone

NJ

The first critical step for a $500 million liquefied natural gas port - at least from Delaware's standpoint - has been taken by energy giant BP. The question is whether BP's plan for a shipping dock in the Delaware River is permitted under the state's protective Coastal Zone Act.

BP argues that Coastal Zone regulations permit the dock for two reasons: a nearby coal off-loading pier was previously approved by the state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control; and the BP pier, which would hold pipelines into the Logan Township, N.J., natural gas plant, constitutes a manufacturing use permissible under the Coastal Zone Act.

The decision will have significant bearing on the future of Delaware's Coastal Zone. The question of what constitutes manufacturing under Coastal Zone guidelines has never before been answered.

As News Journal reporter Jeff Montgomery's Sunday article stated, this Coastal Zone decision may well be a minor skirmish as BP seeks final approval for its project.

The matter now awaits DNREC Secretary John Hughes. His staff must decide if the BP application fulfills all requirements of Coastal Zone regulations. Are all the I's dotted and T's crossed? With two of Delaware's top corporate environmental attorneys as authors - David Swayze and F. Michael Parkowski - the answer regarding the particulars is yes.

So the length of time before the clock starts running for public review and a final decision depends on Secretary Hughes. After the application is ruled acceptable, DNREC has 25 business days to move.

The proposed LNG port and processing plant are the largest such projects ever brought into the Coastal Zone process. Secretary Hughes cannot play games delaying the inevitable. A decision either way is expected to provoke legal action, which likely would drag on for more months. Even with the coming holiday closings, Secretary Hughes must show the state's hand as soon as possible so the public process can go forward.




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