LNG’s impact on LIS:

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Does anybody know?

Does anybody know?

A group of Connecticut state marine experts in December described a federal study, which found that a proposal to construct a liquefied natural gas facility in Long Island Sound would have only limited adverse effects on the environment, as “poorly researched.”

Retired state marine biologist Ralph Lewis, at the Long Island Sound LNG Task Force hearing held Dec. 7 in Hartford, Conn., compared the study to a research paper written by “maybe a reasonably bright undergraduate … who had some insights but who probably went to the library the afternoon before the paper was due … and pulled an all-nighter.”

A group of four marine biologists and geologists at the hearing discussed the study — a draft environmental impact statement released Nov. 17 by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Broadwater Energy’s

(www.broadwaterenergy.com) proposal to construct a 1,200-foot-long, 70-foot-high floating LNG terminal in the widest part of Long Island Sound. The terminal would accept LNG from tankers, convert it back to a gaseous state and pump it into a pipeline for consumer use.

The Long Island Sound LNG Task Force (www.ctlng.state.ct.us ) was created by Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell, its members say, to review the Broadwater project in order to protect Connecticut residents. The task force is chaired by State Sen. Len Fasano (R-North Haven). State Sen. Andrea Stillman (D-Waterford) is the vice chairperson.

At the hearing, Lewis called the study a “fairly sloppy general overview of the geology of Long Island Sound by people who either didn’t have the knowledge or didn’t take enough time to seek out the best reference material in support of their arguments.” Lewis was also concerned because the authors of the study, he said, cited out-of-date references.

In addition to providing the public with information about the potential adverse and beneficial environmental impacts of the proposed project, the 838-page environmental statement explores alternatives and recommends nearly 80 mitigation measures to avoid or minimize adverse impacts.

Some environmental impacts of concern during construction of the facility would include disturbances to the seafloor and the water column, FERC’s statement says. Impacts during operation of the facility would include minor changes in water quality, air quality, recreational boating and fishing, commercial vessel traffic, as well as minor to moderate impacts on the visual aesthetics of the Sound.

FERC — the lead agency responsible for approving energy-related proposals around the country — consulted with a number of other agencies, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, before drafting the statement.

“An informed opinion on the [environmental statement] can only be made after reviewing the documents upon which it was built,” says John Hritcko, Broadwater senior vice president, in an interview with Soundings. In preparing the statement FERC considered comments filed by interested parties and cooperating state and federal agencies, as well as reports filed over the past 15 months, he says. The statement attempts to analyze those documents as well as numerous independent studies and the several thousand-page application filed by Broadwater in Jan. 2006.

“Broadwater is confident that a review of these documents will show that the issues raised before the [Long Island Sound] LNG Task Force have been documented and addressed,” Hritcko says.

At the task force hearing, Peter Auster, an associate professor with the University of Connecticut’s Department of Marine Sciences and National Undersea Research Center, called FERC’s environmental statement “glossed over,” and says it “lacks adequate description of ecological habitats.

“In general, the authors’ use of the literature and the survey they collected really don’t provide enough information to determine the full range of impacts and assess all the reasonable alternatives for mitigating the project,” he said. Like several others who spoke, Auster admitted he had not read the entire environmental statement, which was released about three weeks before the hearing.

Roman Zajac, a professor of biology and environmental science at the University of New Haven, said he was concerned that the statement lacked predictions of impact and recovery for marine ecology if the Broadwater facility is constructed.

Lane Stewart, an associate professor of natural resources at the University of Connecticut, and chairman of the state lobster restoration commission, voiced his concerns about the statement not addressing potential impacts the project could have on water temperatures in the Sound.

In late September the Coast Guard released a Waterway Suitability Report concerning Broadwater’s proposal. The report, which analyzed safety and security issues surrounding the project, concluded that the Sound is suitable for such a project if a series of suggested risk-management strategies were followed.

FERC recommends that its mitigation measures be attached as conditions to any authorization of the proposal, the statement says. FERC held a series of public hearings that were to end in late January and will consider the information gathered at those hearings and issue its final environmental statement. Broadwater Energy hopes to receive authorization from FERC by mid-2007 and to have the facility constructed and in service by December 2010.

To read FERC’s draft environmental impact statement, go to www.ferc.gov, click on “More Headlines,” scroll down to November 17 and click on the Broadwater link. To read the Coast Guard’s Waterway Suitability Report, go to www.uscgnewyork.com .