Coast Guard offers its assessment of the proposed Broadwater terminal in Long Island Sound
Environmental groups and recreational boaters in Connecticut and New York this fall had mixed reactions to the Coast Guard’s assessment of safety and security issues concerning Broadwater Energy’s proposal to construct a liquefied natural gas facility in Long Island Sound.
“We were all pretty happy with the report, in terms of it not giving an overwhelming approval of the proposal,” says Adrian Little, a member of Boaters Against Broadwater, an initiative organized by Save the Sound, a program of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment. Little admits having not read the entire 165-page report, but calls what he has read an honest assessment.
“It hasn’t changed my position, though, that boaters could have a difficult time trying to navigate the Sound with security zones around large gas carriers,” Little adds. “I’m not for it if it’s going to take away from a boater’s enjoyment of the Sound.”
Leah Schmalz, director of legislative and legal affairs for Save the Sound, had a stronger reaction to the information in the Coast Guard report. “This report shows that the three hazard zones associated with the project could significantly affect important natural resources within 70 square miles of the industrial complex, and will impact commercial shipping, recreational boating, and commercial and recreational fishing within Connecticut and New York,” she says in a news release. “This proposal raises serious legal issues concerning the rights of the citizens of both states.”
The Coast Guard’s assessment, called the Waterway Suitability Report, was released in late September and outlines the agency’s recommendations to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — the lead agency responsible for approving the Broadwater proposal. The recommendation covers whether the Sound is suitable for such a project in respect to navigation safety and maritime security for LNG marine traffic and the operation of the proposed facility.
Broadwater Energy of New York (a partnership between TransCanada and Shell Oil) has proposed a floating LNG terminal in the broadest part of Long Island Sound, in New York waters about nine miles from Long Island and 10 miles from Connecticut. The 1,200-foot-long, 70-foot-high terminal would accept LNG from tankers, convert it back to a gaseous state, and pump it into a pipeline for consumer use. It is expected to receive two to three weekly shipments of LNG from tankers entering the Sound through the Race, the passageway in eastern Long Island Sound between the west end of Fishers Island and Little Gull Island. The proposed security zone around the facility would be centered on its mooring tower with an area of 1.48 miles. The proposed safety zones around the tankers, while in transit, would extend two miles in front, one mile behind and 750 yards to either side. The Coast Guard would coordinate and enforce the safety zones.
In its report the Coast Guard determined that additional measures would be necessary to “responsibly manage the safety and security risks associated with the proposed project.” The agency offers in the report a series of risk-management strategies including measures to reduce risk by reducing the potential of an accident or attempted terrorist attack, and measures to reduce the potential consequences if there was a sizable release of LNG from either the proposed facility or an LNG tanker.
Broadwater Energy says it will work “cooperatively with federal, state and local regulatory and law enforcement authorities” as required by the Coast Guard. “Many of the safety and security measures recommended in the [Coast Guard report] are standard operating procedures already in use at existing LNG terminals and other marine facilities in the United States,” Broadwater says in a press release. “Broadwater’s intent is to ensure that the terminal is self-sufficient with respect to safety and security.”
The Coast Guard’s Waterway Suitability Report will become part of FERC’s draft Environmental Impact Statement on Broadwater’s proposal. The impact statement, the commission says, will address the full spectrum of environmental impacts associated with the project.Following a series of public comment meetings the commission will issue a final impact statement and make a decision to license the project or not. When the draft impact statement might be issued was not clear at press time.
To read the full Coast Guard’s Waterway Suitability Report, or a summary, go to www.uscgnewyork.com.