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Romney says LNG security tightened

Governor Mitt Romney said yesterday that the Massachusetts State Police have upgraded security measures around the Everett liquefied natural gas plant and nearby petroleum facilities, two weeks after a federal report predicted that an attack on an LNG tanker would devastate Boston.

Romney, in an interview, said a review he commissioned by public safety officials found the state has generally adequate measures in place for protecting tanker deliveries. Those include deploying heavily-armed troopers and Coast Guard cruisers and shutting down air, land, and sea traffic as vessels laden with LNG proceed through Boston Harbor to the Everett Distrigas facility.

But, Romney said, the review showed that ''we do need to increase our level of security with regard to the storage of LNG and other petroleum products as well. We have taken measures to immediately upgrade our security measures."

''I'm really not going to describe what the nature is of the increase," Romney said. ''It does involve the State Police and the Everett Police, and it will also encompass in the future the private companies involved."

Besides the LNG storage terminal, Boston Harbor and the Chelsea Creek are also lined by several gasoline, heating oil, and jet fuel storage facilities that security specialists cite as potential terrorist targets.

Romney's comments followed a half-hour meeting between the governor, other state officials, and Richard L. Grant, the chief executive of Tractebel LNG North America, parent company of Distrigas.

Two weeks ago, the US Energy Department's Sandia National Laboratories completed a year-long study aimed at resolving widely conflicting speculation about what could happen to Boston if an LNG-laden tanker were hit by a missile, suicide aircraft, or boat attack.

The 166-page report found that a firestorm ignited by such an attack would cause ''major injuries and significant damage to structures" 1,300 to 2,000 feet away and inflict second-degree burns on people up to 7,000 feet from an attack. That risk zone encompasses much of downtown Boston and densely populated areas of South Boston, East Boston, and Chelsea.

Despite the risks involved, LNG shipments to Distrigas are crucial to ensuring reliable energy supplies in Boston, accounting for 20 percent of the region's annual gas usage and up to 40 percent of peak winter demand.

An aide to US Representative Edward J. Markey, a Malden Democrat who has been a leading critic of security measures around LNG shipment and storage in Everett, said Markey's office had not been made aware of any specific changes. But, the aide said: ''The more security there, the better, given the potential threat."

Peter J. Howe can be reached at howe@globe.com.

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