BACKGROUND AND INFORMATION
In June 2023, a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facility exploded in Cameron, Louisiana, leading to an evacuation of the entire town of 219 people, and rolling blackouts in the area. New Mexico Gas Company (NMGC) wants to build an LNG facility very near tens of thousands of residents in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, and less than four miles from Volcano Vista High School and Puesta Elementary School. Worst of all, building this plant is completely unnecessary.
LNG has become a staple in the United States’ energy portfolio over the past ten years as a way to transport methane gas. However, while production and export of this fuel have increased a hundredfold in the past ten years, LNG safety regulations have not been updated since 1980, when a then newly-elected Ronald Reagan was on his way to office.
Since the start of this century, disasters have followed. In 2004, an Algerian LNG terminal exploded as a result of a leak, killing 27 people and destroying half the plant. In 2014, in Washington State, gas ignited inside LNG processing equipment, which caused a “rolling detonation,” generating a mushroom cloud and a large fire–shooting shrapnel weighing up to 250 pounds as far as 900 feet. The explosion was felt over six miles away and injured five workers in the process. In June 2021, an explosion at a Texas LNG export terminal shook residential homes and “threw lifeguards off their chairs.”
LNG facilities are accident-prone due to chemicals used to cool fuels. Methane and propane are used in large volumes in these plants, and have a tendency to leak, forming clouds of flammable gas, which can be ignited by as little as static electricity. Jerry Havens, a chemical engineering professor at the University of Arkansas, and a developer of computer models LNG regulators use, admits “the worst-case accident at an LNG terminal could be 10 times worse than the one the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) uses for its planning”. There is, thus, reason to be highly skeptical of NMGC’s spokesperson claiming the proposed Rio Rancho facility will be “state of the art” and “safe.”
NMGC’s spokesman agrees with critics that building this $180 million plant, consisting of 25 acres for the plant, and 160 acres overall, will result in $3 a month increases for ratepayers–though NNMG executives are perhaps betting on making money from NMGC having a state-guaranteed 9.35% profit. $180 million dollars is the initial estimate, but, akin to one’s home kitchen remodel, it could be much higher. And LNG is a non-renewable fuel, therefore at risk of leaving taxpayers with stranded costs, as with coal plants.
This leads to the most practical factor, which is this plant is not needed at all. NMGC, which currently sources natural gas from a recently refurbished gas facility near El Paso, and New Mexico’s border, claims the proposed Rio Rancho facility would alleviate gas price volatility. However, NMGC has a tried-and-true business-oriented alternative—purchasing a mix of short- and long-term gas contracts, hedging contracts (through insurance), and further improving existing energy efficiencies. Nationwide demand for LNG has been flat over decades, so there is no pressing need to build this facility. In addition, there are open spaces in the southeast region of the State to build such a facility, where the threat to human life and homes is essentially non-existent.
A project as dangerous and expensive as the planned LNG plant in Rio Rancho has no place in our community, and is not worth the risk of a major fire and pollution which will severely undermine property values and risk injury or death to our fellow residents.
Mitchell J. Freedman
Rio Rancho, NM
August 3, 2023
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FOR ACTIONS FROM MJF:
Contacting the Public Regulation Commission (PRC):
- Public Comment with the PRC – October 23rd by Zoom
- Can’t make the Zoom Public Comment, then write your opinion and basis for your opinion to the PRC directly through the New Eneregy Economy, which is a leading organization opposing the proposed LNG plant:
- PRC hearing begins – October 24th
- About a month later Hearing Examiner recommendation to PRC is made.
- About a month later PRC vote is concluded.
Contact the Sandoval County Commissioners (and be nice!), starting with Democratic Party members, Katherine Bruch (District 1) and Joshua Jones (District 5):
Contact the City of Rio Rancho (again, be nice!), starting with Karissa Culbeath (District 5), a Democratic
Party member: WRITE LETTERS TO EDITOR:
ABQ Journal – 500 word limit
Rio Rancho Observer – 500 word limit
Get on mailing list for the New Energy Economy (MJF personal request):