|Posted on August 31, 2014 at 11:50 AM|
PORTSMOUTH — The city has reached an agreement with the attorney for the Sea-3, propane facility in Newington, which may delay Monday's scheduled hearing before the Newington Zoning Board of Appeals, according to Portsmouth staff attorney Jane Ferrini.
The ZBA is scheduled to hear the Portsmouth's appeal of the Newington Planning Board's decision to approve the expansion of the propane facility, but Ferrini said Monday afternoon the city agreed to delay the hearing because of the agreement.
But Ferrini said despite the agreement, it's ultimately up to the ZBA members to decide if they will delay the hearing, which is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. in Newington Town Hall.
Ferrini said the city reached a deal for Sea-3 to conduct a safety assessment of the site, but they still have to negotiate the "scope of the safety hazard study."
The study will not focus on the condition of the railroad tracks owned by Pan Am Railways, which will carry many more trains carrying propane because of the approved expansion.
Numerous area officials and residents have complained about the condition of the tracks and city officials had repeatedly asked for a comprehensive safety assessment of the operation, which included the condition of the tracks.
But Ferrini said Monday the appeal to the ZBA — and a second one filed in Rockingham Superior Court — are focused on the safety of the site.
If the negotiations on the scope of the study are successful, Ferrini said, she expects both appeals to be dropped.
She said city officials are continuing to explore the condition of the tracks and noted that Mayor Robert Lister asked Gov. Maggie Hassan for the state to "perform a comprehensive safety and risk analysis regarding all aspects of the transportation of LPG (liquefied propane gas) throughout the state."
Hassan responded by sending a letter to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation asking for his help in dealing with the potential impact of increased propane traffic on Pan Am Railways tracks in the Seacoast.
Citing recent train derailments in Lynchburg, Va., and LacMegantic, Quebec, Hassan said those incidents "remind us that proper care and regulation of freight trains is essential to ensuring the safety and well-being of our people and our economy," according to a copy of the letter that was sent on Thursday.
She asked Secretary Anthony Foxx to evaluate the condition of the tracks carrying propane tank cars, evaluate the proposed plans for 15 rail crossings along the track, "strengthen federal rules regarding the safety or rail cars carrying hazardous materials," and call for improved communication between rail companies, local communities and first responders.