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New opinion on floating gas terminal

NOV. 18 — The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the lead agency responsible for approving energy-related proposals around the country, announced last week that a proposal to construct a liquefied natural gas facility off New York and Connecticut in Long Island Sound would have only limited adverse effects on the environment.

The agency on Friday released its Draft Environmental Impact Statementon Broadwater Energy’s proposal to construct a 1,200-foot-long, 70-foot-high floating LNG terminal in the broadest 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.

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

Environmental impacts of concern during construction of the facility would include disturbances to the seafloor and the water column, the 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.

“After an initial review, we have serious disagreements with FERC’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement regarding Broadwater Energy’s floating liquid natural gas facility proposed for Long Island Sound and we look forward to the public hearing process to air those differences,” Robert Reynolds, senior staff attorney for Connecticut Fund for the Environment, says in a release. “[The proposal] would industrialize and privatize Long Island Sound, making a large area off limits to the public. It would be environmentally destructive, and it is unsafe and it is unnecessary.”

In late September the U.S. 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 are followed. To read the report, click here.

FERC recommends that its mitigation measures be attached as conditions to any authorization of the proposal, the statement says. FERC will hold a series of public hearings before issuing its final environmental statement. Broadwater Energy hopes to receive authorization from FERC by mid-2007 and to have the facility constructed an in service by December 2010.

— Jason Fell