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Sunday, June 04, 2006

Some in Baltimore fret over LNG port

The Baltimore Sun takes a lokk at a proposed LNG plant for Sparrows Point here. While there is much in the article to indicate a passing attempt at fairness, it still dwells heavily on somewhat irrational fears of citizens who have not clearly thought through the evidence. For example:
The 72-year-old retired school teacher lives just over a mile from the spot at the old Sparrows Point shipyard where a global power-supply company wants to process liquefied natural gas. And she has heard enough about the idea - which has politicians lining up against it - that she's worried her great-grandchildren might not be safe playing outside her home.

"If it happens, you'd be anxious about everything," says Martha Winston, whose modest two-story house is in the heart of historic Turners Station, just across Bear Creek from the proposed LNG terminal. "We feel most intimidated because we're so close to it."
As I have noted earlier, the risk from LNG seems pretty minmal to me, especially compared to other known risks that the retired school teacher could be worrying about for her "great-grandchildren."

Let's see, deaths caused by LNG in the US in past 62 years= 129.

Automobile deaths over 62 years x 30,000 per year average= 1,860,000. Maryland had 643 traffic fatalities in 2004. Obviously, the teacher should not let her children near cars. Does she drive? Do her grandchildren drive?

Baltimore has a high homicide rate, averaging over 300 per year (1988-2002=~4500 homicides). To make sure her great-grandchildren are safe, is the former teacher prepared to move to a safer location, say Nebraska, which averages 50 or so murders/manslaughters per year for an entire state? That would lower the risk to her great-grandchildren...

It's all very NIMBY. And the project's opponents have no idea of what the odds are:
"You can't rule out the extremes anymore," said Brooks, the Turners Station activist. "That's what Sept. 11 taught us. That's what Oklahoma City taught us. ... You have to err on the side of caution."

Even if the chances of catastrophe are slim, these residents say, the potential consequences are too damaging.

"It's about the value of a human life," says Carolyn Jones, president of the Greater Dundalk Alliance. "This project isn't worth the risk."
Does Ms. Jones crusade for safer highways for Maryland? What is worth the risk? From 1990 to 2003, 12 people died in Maryland by being struck by lightning. Does Ms. Jones contend that the "value of a human life" outweighs the risk of allowing people to go outside where they might be struck by lightning? Should everyone sit inside and not move because the risk is too great?

And the ultimate NIMBY statement:

"I'm not against LNG," said Smith. "I'm against it being here, so close to so many houses and businesses. We're talking about a lot of risk."
Are we? Take a look at the "odds of dying" chart here.

Which activities are too high risk to be allowed to continue?
Being a pedestrian? 1 in 612 chance of getting killed..
Being in bed? 1 in 7,318 chance of suffocating or stranulation...
Taking a bath? 1 in 10,582 chance of drowning...
Using a staircase? 1 in 2,331 chance of falling and dying...
Car occupant? 1 chance in 228 of dying...

And so on. Life is risk.

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