Pro: By Joel M. Rinehold
The terminal can coexist with region while providing a new energy supply
As a recreational boater who has sailed Long Island Sound for more than three decades, I know that use of the Sound for energy-related purposes is nothing new. It hosts several large ports, an offshore oil terminal, cables and pipelines, shoreline power plants and oil tanks, and large ships that enter frequently to deliver oil and coal. These uses help fuel our economy, power our transportation systems, and provide us with the quality of life we now enjoy.
What is new about Broadwater’s proposal to site a liquefied natural gas terminal in Long Island Sound is its decision to involve the residents of New York and Connecticut in the design process to ensure that the project is compatible and can coexist with the Sound’s current uses. Using information and feedback provided by residents, Broadwater is continually updating its proposal to ensure that the ultimate project design put forward for regulatory review benefits the environment, economy and residents of this region.
The proposed location in the widest part of the Sound was chosen, in part, because commercial and recreational traffic and activities are more limited, and the location avoids shellfish beds and the sensitive near-shore environment. At nine miles from the nearest shoreline, experts say it would be well beyond the range of concern for any safety and security issue that could possibly arise. Removal of the vessel would involve towing it away, with minimal environmental effects.
Why is Broadwater proposing to anchor the terminal in Long Island Sound? This region is in desperate need of new energy supplies, and Broadwater’s terminal would deliver natural gas directly where it is needed. We are currently at the end of the natural gas pipeline delivery system, which means Connecticut and New York energy prices are among the highest in the country. These higher energy costs will continue to grow and affect all members of the public, make our businesses less competitive, and force power generation plants to continue burning coal and fuel oil to generate electricity, rather than using cleaner-burning and more efficient natural gas.
Natural gas delivered by Broadwater could displace the use of oil and coal, which have substantially greater impact to the Sound due to emissions fallout and spillage. These project attributes are of great public value and are consistent with environmental preference standards to protect sensitive areas of Long Island Sound, and consequently can hardly be associated with “industrialization” of the Sound.
Conservation and renewable energy will be part of our long-term future, but for the short-term transition, new supplies of natural gas are necessary to ensure cleaner energy use now. Without new natural gas supplies, the region likely will face higher energy prices and volatility, potential energy shortages as demand exceeds supplies, and increased use of coal and oil for electricity generation, which leads to greater air emissions of sulfur dioxide, mercury, nitrogen oxides, and carbon dioxide. These pollutants impact the water quality of the Sound and affect society by increasing incidents of asthma and other respiratory illness. If our environmental goals include cleaner air, cleaner water and an overall healthier environment for people, Broadwater’s project could make this a reality. While LNG import facilities have been proposed for other parts of the United States, none would directly benefit Connecticut and New York.
Stable energy prices, clean fuel to repower older, obsolete power plants, and protection of Long Island Sound are all important objectives that must be considered analytically and objectively. But this analysis can only be effective if it is conducted in a thoughtful, fact-based review without the emotional rhetoric and hyperbole so often associated with infrastructure proposals of this nature.
Balance is key. Through public regulation, some areas of Long Island Sound can and should be preserved, some can and should be used for specific purposes like shellfishing, and other areas can and should be developed for certain commercial uses — like transhipment areas, ports and terminals — to support our economy. The Broadwater project will provide energy to a region with little supply and rising costs.
Ultimately, the federal and state regulatory review process will determine if this project is needed and suitable for this region, and if it provides a service for the greater good. If Broadwater fails this test, it will not receive the necessary regulatory approvals.
For these and many other reasons, Broadwater must be given a full opportunity to make its case to develop this project. I encourage all boaters, other users of the Sound, and other members of the public to review the facts, assess the alternatives, and provide comments on the current project design to ensure Broadwater’s project not only provides us with a much needed, cleaner-burning energy supply, but does this while achieving a balance among user interests.
Joel M. Rinebold is an independent energy and environmental consultant for Broadwater Energy (a joint venture between TransCanada Corp and Shell U.S. Gas and Power) and is currently involved in several regional projects that use alternative and renewable energy sources. For more information about Broadwater, call (800) 798-6379 or visit http://www.broadwaterenergy.com..
The risk of damaging the Sound’s ecology is too high
Con: By Leah Lopez Schmalz
Chances are when you think of Long Island Sound you picture wonderful daybreak and sunset vistas, feet made sandy and damp from the beach’s lapping water, children splashing on a summer afternoon, or even a lobster dinner at a shoreside restaurant. But when Broadwater thinks of Long Island Sound, it sees dollar signs and the home for the first-ever floating liquefied natural gas industrial facility.
In a combined effort with TransCanada and Shell, Broadwater is proposing a complex that would be 1,200 feet long, about 10 stories tall, and 180 feet wide — about the same size as the Queen Mary II. But that is only part of the project. It also has LNG tankers delivering cargo two to three times per week, an anchoring system with a footprint of 7,000 square feet, and a 25-mile 30-inch-
diameter concrete-coated pipeline trenched into the sediment. This would all take place in New York waters, about 11 miles from Connecticut.
Some may think that increasing the foreign supply of natural gas is the answer to our energy guzzling woes. For the worried, the curious, and perhaps those who think the problem is now solved, the following will briefly outline why Save the Sound believes Broadwater’s proposal is an inappropriate use of Long Island Sound.
Events in recent history have forced our country to elevate scrutiny when reviewing facility safety and appropriateness, especially when siting near densely populated areas. For this reason and because explosions from platform operations, other technical malfunctions, and tankers that bring in shipments of LNG are a potential threat to human and ecological safety, a large segment of the waters surrounding the platform and each shipment tanker will be designated “no boating,” “no fishing,” and “no general public access” areas.
This quarantine would be an industrial monopoly of Sound waters. This conflicts with the reality that these waters are for the use of citizens, and any intrusion or limit of that public use must be in the public interest and not an unreasonable interference of that use. In this case the platform will dominate the rights of all people to fish, lobster and boat in that portion of the Sound. In addition, the potential for damage to the Sound’s ecology is enormous.
We don’t yet know all of the environmental aftereffects associated with this type of complex, and it is likely we never will, since there is no existing facility anywhere in the world from which we can draw information. However, what we do know is that, according to the preliminary project description, the pipeline installation will likely move a tremendous amount of sediment. If previous Long Island Sound pipeline applications are any indication, it could produce more than 2,000 lay barge anchor holes — each large enough to contain an SUV — and potentially permanently change the sediment layers that took millions of years to form.
Water quality in the immediate area could be negatively affected by process water discharges, sewage wastewater treatment, storm-water runoff, vessel maintenance, LNG spills, and any result of an on-board fire. Other related concerns include excessive illumination after dark, fisheries problems related to the platform and docking ballast water uptake, the intake of water to cool machinery, and the precedent set for future Long Island Sound development projects.
Some are likely wondering if there are environmental safeguards, and yes, there are. The question is are they enough to protect this congressionally declared estuary of national significance? For example, shortening the pipeline to 15 miles instead of 25 miles would lessen environmental impact, but is that enough? Placing a bond on any permits received that mandate responsibility for restoring any damaged resources would help mitigate damage, but is that enough? Compensating the public for removing waters that belong to them can be done, but is that enough?
Even if we set aside for the moment environmental impacts, safety considerations, energy policy implications, and states’ rights issues, the determination on a case by case basis that the Sound is available first-come, first-served should enrage anyone who sees the Sound as a public resource. If we say to Broadwater that it is OK to build a gas facility in the middle of Long Island Sound, how do we say no to anyone else wanting to develop the Sound for profit?
Siting environmentally devastating projects has proven time and again to be a bad idea, yet we keep doing it — and we keep doing it absent a development plan that helps the region decide what is and what is not appropriate. If New York and Connecticut ignore the fact that once we invite this type of industry into our waters it becomes virtually impossible to get off of the slippery slope, what should we expect next … another LNG facility or five, a couple of bridges, a manmade island for hotels? Or, as the song goes, we can always “pave paradise and put up a parking lot.”
Leah Lopez Schmalz is director of legislative and legal affairs for Save the Sound, a program of the non-profit Connecticut Fund for the Environment, which is dedicated to the restoration, protection and appreciation of Long Island Sound. For more information, call (888) 728-3547 or visit www.savethesound.org.