South Portland official now says propane storage proposal does not comply with city code

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Code Enforcement Officer Pat Doucette on Friday said a proposal to construct a liquefied petroleum gas facility at Rigby Yard does not comply with existing city code.

The Jan. 8 letter to NGL Supply Terminal Co. arrived just weeks after the company’s application was deemed complete in late December by the Planning and Development Department. It also reverses Doucette’s initial assessment and approval of the proposal last spring, which some city residents and officials found ill-conceived and inaccurate.

NGL wants to build a 24,000-gallon above-ground storage tank, accompanied by 16 filled rail cars and eight empty rail cars at the rail yard between the Thornton Heights and Cash Corners neighborhood, off Route 1.

“Given the nature of propane as either a liquid or a gas when contained in a pressurized container, I interpret the definition of storage … of more than 10,000 cubic feet of gas … to mean that NGL is allowed to store 74,805 gallons of LPG (liquid petroleum gas) on site for no more than 24 hours at a time,” Doucette wrote.

“Because NGL proposes to have as much as 504,000 gallons of LPG product retained on site for more than 24 hours” – one 24,000-gallon above-ground storage tank, 16 full rail cars, totaling 480,000 – Doucette said NGL’s proposal does not comply with with the 10,000-cubic-foot limit.

If NGL wants to proceed, she said, the company will have to alter its site plan application.

At the close of her letter, Doucette said “a lot of new information has been provided to the Planning Department and me over the last 7-8 months that I had not considered last spring.”

“This is a very complex proposed project and it has taken everyone involved a significant amount of time to understand the project and the applicable regulatory scheme,” she said.

Her letter was sent five days before the Planning Board is slated to review a possible moratorium on the project at its Jan. 12 meeting. The moratorium was proposed in the fall by residents from the neighborhoods surrounding Rigby Yard.

An NGL representative said the company intends to continue the application process.

In a statement released late Friday afternoon, Kevin Fitzgerald, regional operations manager for NGL Energy Partners, said “coming a few short weeks after our application was deemed complete, Ms. Doucette’s letter represents another unfortunate attempt to change the rules mid-stream.”

“NGL is aware of the ordinance in question and has every capability and intention to comply with it,” Fitzgerald said. “These are precisely the sorts of issues that the Planning Board process is designed to address.”

“For nearly seven months we’ve been systemically denied the opportunity to present our proposal and answer any questions,” he continued. “We will appeal this decision and file additional information with the City to address these latest questions.”

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or aacquisto@theforecaster.net. Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA.

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Railroad cars containing liquefied petroleum gas at Rigby Yard in South Portland, where the code enforcement officer now says a proposed LPG storage depot does not meet city code. (File)

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South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.