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Feds approve Broadwater, states oppose

Without New York’s approval, project for a liquid natural gas terminal in L. I. Sound is at a standstill

Without New York’s approval, project for a liquid natural gas terminal in L. I. Sound is at a standstill

The up-and-down approval process for the controversial proposal to put a 1,200-foot-long floating liquid natural gas terminal in Long Island Sound may have been permanently stalled in April.

On March 20, Broadwater Energy was buoyed when federal energy regulators approved the project — with numerous conditions attached. Three weeks later, New York’s newly appointed governor sided with Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell in opposing the project, effectively bringing it to a stalemate.

“We are disappointed and concerned with [New York’s] decision,” said John Hritcko, senior vice president and regional project director for Broadwater Energy, in a statement. Broadwater also noted that, “the regulatory process provides the project a number of options going forward and Broadwater will review the specifics of the decision before deciding on potential next steps.”

The New York Office of General Services and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation have not approved the project. One step could be to appeal the New York Department of State’s decision to deny the project’s federal consistency under the state’s Coastal Zone Management Plan. Broadwater has 30 days to file an appeal to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, who would then have 220 days to issue a ruling.

Broadwater is an alliance formed between Shell Oil and TransCanada Pipeline that proposed the $700 million project in 2004 with the original plan of beginning construction in 2010. The LNG processing plant would be moored to a fixed tower placed in the middle of the Sound about nine miles from Long Island and about 11 miles from Connecticut. Two to three tankers a week would come to drop off supercooled LNG from abroad and the facility would heat the LNG back to a gaseous state for use. The gas would be transported to its intended destination via a 22-mile pipeline running along the floor of the Sound. Broadwater proposed to transport a billion cubic feet per day, which would be enough to heat about four million homes.

Joseph T. Kelliher, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), said in the official statement of approval that after extensive review, the project proposal meets federal safety and environmental standards.

“I emphasize that our approval of this project comes with many conditions designed to protect the environment and ensure public safety,” says Kelliher. “Our authorization is conditioned, including more than 80 environmental, security and public safety conditions.”

“With respect to the LNG terminals, we are first and foremost a safety agency, we do not balance safety against need,” says Kelliher. “But we are not unmindful of the need for additional natural gas supplies in the Northeast.”

On Jan. 11, FERC issued its final environmental impact study to the Coast Guard for review, stating that the project, “would have fewer environmental impacts than any alternatives considered.” Kelliher says during the review of the project FERC also held or participated in 35 community, state and federal agency meetings in addition to the 825-page study that was conducted over the course of three years.

In March, the Coast Guard concluded the Broadwater facility could be safely operated and would not pose a significant target for terrorism if adequate resources are applied, including a security zone of 1,210 yards (seven-tenths of a mile) around the terminal.

Despite these affirmations, New York Gov. David A. Paterson stated publicly April 10 that he opposed the project and was taking steps to research energy alternatives.

“One of my goals as governor is to protect Long Island Sound, by preserving it as a valuable estuary, an economic engine for the region, and a key component to making Long Island’s quality of life one of the best in the country,” says Paterson in a press release. “Broadwater does not pass that test.”

Some of the problems with Broadwater that Paterson outlines are: the existence of other alternative energy sources; it does not guarantee low-cost gas to Long Island; the facility, tankers and pipeline would disrupt commercial and recreational fishing; and it would involve privatizing open water that would set a dangerous precedent for the future.

Paterson’s views have been publicly supported by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz. According to Blumenthal’s office, Connecticut is preparing a proposal to have FERC reconsider its approval.

Paterson says he plans to organize a State Energy Planning Board Executive Order to establish a State Energy Planning Board. He also announced that the Long Island Power Authority will launch a $1 billion, 10-year “Efficiency Long Island” initiative to reduce the electricity demand. Other plans include exploring natural gas efficiency measures and viable alternatives to natural gas.

“One of my other goals as governor is to address high energy costs,” says Paterson. “By both reducing the amount of energy demand and aggressively pursuing a new responsible supply, we can get our state on a path toward lower energy costs, economic revitalization and a cleaner, healthier environment.”