Awaiting Paterson

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Ever since arriving on the Long Island scene two years ago, Broadwater Energy has with the delicacy of a barreling freight train pushed its scheme to place a quarter-mile-long liquefied natural gas barge in the middle of the Long Island Sound.

And the intense push by Broadwater, a joint venture of Shell Oil and TransCanada, continues as a climax nears. It’s currently bombarding the airwaves with commercials claiming we’ll all save $300 a year if Broadwater happens.

Counters a leader of the Anti-Broadwater Coalition, Richard Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society: “If you believe that, there’s a certain bridge for sale …”

In coming days—perhaps this Friday—the one person in governmental office who can now stop the Broadwater venture, New York’s new Governor David Paterson, is to announce his decision.

From the outset, Broadwater pulled all the stops in hiring all kinds of individuals it figured could help in its push, paying them piles of money comparable in size to its proposed barge. These include: former Suffolk County Executive Robert Gaffney; ex-Suffolk County Police Commissioner John Gallagher; former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani; Katherine Heaviside and her Huntington-based Epoch 5 public relations company, specialists in “crisis” situations (they were the firm Brookhaven National Laboratory went to when it was exposed for causing massive radioactive pollution); and PR man Robert Zimmerman of Great Neck and Southampton, a national Democratic Party committeeman close to Senator Hillary Clinton. Broadwater also hired Rezi Cooper, a former top Long Island aide of Senator Clinton, as a consultant last year.

Broadwater spread its plentiful oil industry money around further. Also last year, Broadwater—and this could have a bearing on Mr. Paterson’s decision—announced it was putting $10 million into a program involving Long Island ACORN and the Community Environmental Center, both based in Hempstead and from which Mr. Paterson originally hails. Houses in low-income communities in Nassau and Suffolk would be weatherized with the funding.

Anti-Broadwater Coalition leader Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, blasted it as “a bribe.”

And the grant was cited by a national organization, PRWatch.org, an initiative of the Center for Media and Democracy in Madison, Wisconsin, as “successful cooptation.” The center’s Sheldon Rampton, an expert in public relations and toxic pollution—he co-authored the book “Toxic Sludge Is Good for You”—pointed to Broadwater’s parent company, Shell, as having “an infamous history of targeting, dividing and conquering activists.”

It was no surprise that the avidly pro-LNG terminal Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) last month approved Broadwater. Its chairman, Joseph Kelliher, a George W. Bush appointee, even worked for the law firm representing Broadwater.

And the company had former Governor Spitzer’s ear. The governor met privately with the top executives of Shell and TransCanada. A state’s governor can veto a FERC approval.

Mr. Spitzer set the date for announcing his Broadwater decision as tomorrow. Mr. Paterson, in the fallen Spitzer’s stead, is to announce his decision then, or not far afterwards.

Despite its gargantuan treasury and hired connections, it’s not gone smoothly for Broadwater. Public, governmental and press opposition is enormously strong on Long Island and in Connecticut. On the press front, the opposition was capped by The New York Times last week with an editorial declaring it was: “Saying No to Broadwater.”

For all its public relations counsel, Broadwater has repeatedly done dumb things. It refused to participate, for instance, in a recent News 12-Long Island town meeting on Broadwater, with one participant, Broadwater foe U.S. Representative Tim Bishop, calling this symbolic. Broadwater’s lone Long Island on-air advocate was Matthew Cordaro who, as former New York Times and Newsday consumer investigative reporter Fran Cerra Whittelsey noted on her blog (www.theequalizerfcw.blogspot.com), was the LILCO vice president for engineering and “one of the utility leaders who foisted the Shoreham nuclear plant on Long Island, stubbornly refusing to change direction even when it was clear that residents would never allow it to operate.”

Ahead is a train wreck—for either Broadwater or Long Island.

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