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Pan Am eyes downtown Portsmouth for unloading propane train

Posted by Matthew P. LaFrenier on January 3, 2016 at 1:35 PM

PORTSMOUTH — City officials with safety concerns may try to derail a possible plan by Pan Am Railways to unload propane from rail cars along tracks in the heart of Portsmouth.

 

Details of the proposal are still being ironed out, but a top Pan Am Railways official confirmed Monday that Portsmouth is one of the sites the company is eyeing as it tries to meet the region’s growing demand for propane.

 

The area under consideration is located in a rail yard in the city’s downtown near the historic Old North Cemetery on Maplewood Avenue and Gary’s Beverages on Deer Street.

 

“Because of its location, it is a location that we’re looking at for potentially transloading propane,” said Cynthia Scarano, executive vice president of Pan Am Railways.

 

According to Scarano, the propane would arrive by rail, and would then be pumped into trucks from different propane companies that would transport it from the site.

 

Scarano said Pan Am, which owns the tracks, is still considering other sites as well for an offloading facility and hasn’t made a final decision.

 

City officials said they haven’t received any formal propane plan for downtown, but are aware of the possibility.

 

“If this were to occur, certainly there would be concerns and the city would take every action possible to protect residents. We plan on opposing this,” Deputy City Manager David Allen said Monday.

 

The possible propane plan comes as the city continues to appeal the Newington Planning Board’s decision to give Sea-3 the go-ahead to expand its propane storage terminal in Newington to accommodate rail deliveries. Trains to Newington travel through downton Portsmouth, and the city has fought Sea-3’s stalled expansion plan amid concerns about rail safety and increased risk of mishaps involving propane deliveries.

 

Jane Ferrini, a city staff attorney, said Pan Am would have to meet various local, state and federal regulations to move ahead with any off-loading plan in Portsmouth.

 

She said the offices of the state fire marshal and Gov. Maggie Hassan have also been made aware of the possibility.

 

While plans are still preliminary, Ferrini said the city “has explored various legal avenues” in the event Pan Am moves ahead.

 

The plan would not involve the installation of any holding tanks to store propane at the site, Scarano said.

 

“Safety is our No. 1 priority and we’ll make sure we follow all the regulations,” Scarano said.

 

The downtown site is a “primary” spot because “it’s a central location of where we need to get this propane delivered to,” she said.

 

When asked if the delays in Sea-3’s expansion prompted Pan Am’s plan, Scarano responded, “What’s behind it is the fact that propane use as far as rail shipment is up 35 percent and that’s just because it’s considered a clean fuel now.”

 

Scarano confirmed that Pan Am officials were asked to meet with the governor’s office and others about the plan, including energy directors around New England.

 

She said she’s not sure when the plan could move forward because it all depends on demand, but she insisted that it would be within the coming months.

 

If the area sees an early cold snap and demand spikes while supply is low, Scarano said the off-loading plan would be needed sooner rather than later. - See more at: http://www.unionleader.com/Pan_Am_eyes_downtown_Portsmouth_for_possible_propane_plan#sthash.uTSCnCNV.dpuf

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