Paterson nixes Broadwater

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New York Governor David A. Paterson has rejected a hotly contested proposal to build a huge floating liquefied natural gas terminal in the middle of the Long Island Sound.

At a press conference at Sunken Meadow State Park in Northport last Thursday, April 10, Mr. Paterson said he rejected the proposed Broadwater LNG platform because the 1,200-foot-long gas barge would “scar the Long Island Sound” and introduce a host of environmental impacts and safety concerns.

He also questioned whether the cost of natural gas for Long Islanders would be reduced if the project moved forward, as Broadwater has claimed.

“I want to assure Long Island that I want to protect the Long Island Sound,” Mr. Paterson said. “I want to preserve it as a valuable estuary, an engine of economic development and, of course, a place that is really the epicenter of great culture and life that symbolizes Long Island.”

The Broadwater project—a joint venture of Shell Oil and TransCanada Pipelines—called for a floating gas barge to be constructed, operated and moored nine miles off Wading River in the sound.

Mr. Paterson’s rejection was based on a review of the project by the state’s Department of State. The 14-month review determined that the project does not meet New York’s coastal zone management plan, which governs how private entities can use the state’s coastal resources, including the Long Island Sound. Mr. Paterson said the project “did not pass the test of state and federal law.”

“Broadwater would establish a very dangerous precedent of industrializing a waterway that generations of people have spent millions of dollars trying to preserve,” Mr. Paterson said. “People have been speaking out against it for all these months. I may not see all of you, but I hear you.”

Hours before Mr. Paterson’s announcement, Broadwater officials criticized the expected rejection, stating that the project was, in fact, consistent with the coastal zone policies.

Broadwater can appeal the governor’s rejection to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Broadwater officials have not ruled out an appeal.

“The regulatory process provides Broadwater a number of options going forward, and we intend to fully review the decision and findings, then evaluate the project’s next steps,” Senior Vice President and Regional Project Director John Hritcko wrote in an e-mail.

Mr. Paterson’s rejection capped more than three years of deliberation over the project that has now spanned three governorships. Mr. Paterson took office in March.

Environmentalists and lawmakers opposed to the project said Mr. Paterson’s opposition confirmed their own concerns about the project.

Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell said, “It’s a real plus when New York State agrees with what we have been saying all along—that Broadwater is a peril to the Long Island Sound.”

Both Ms. Rell and Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy threatened to appeal if Broadwater was given permission to build the platform in the Long Island Sound.

“Many said, ‘Don’t bother with the fight, because you can’t beat back these big-money interests,’” Mr. Levy said. “Broadwater was stopped, not because we oppose all LNG options, but because this barge should not be in the Long Island Sound.”

Lawmakers and environmentalists alike said Broadwater would industrialize the sound and be a detriment to Long Island estuaries.

The 200-foot-wide, 80-foot-tall facility would be filled with super-cooled liquefied natural gas by regular shipments from gas tankers. The liquefied natural gas would then be converted back to a gaseous state aboard the terminal and transported through a pipeline at the bottom of the Long Island Sound.

Richard Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society and a long-time opponent of the project as a member of the Anti-Broadwater Coalition, also hailed the governor’s decision. “This is a fabulous day for Long Island,” he said. “This is as great a win as I’ve been a part of.”

Casey Jacobs, program coordinator for the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, which has lobbied Albany for a rejection of the plan, said the governor came “to the right conclusion on Broadwater.”

“His decision definitely upheld the will of the public,” Ms. Jacobs said.

However, sounding an alarm at the rejection was Village of Hempstead Mayor Wayne J. Hall Sr., who has supported the plan, claiming that Broadwater could make energy more affordable for the 56,000 residents of Hempstead Village.

“We’re a low-income community, and everything that can save some money for my residents, I’m looking to get,” Mr. Hall said.

Broadwater has claimed that the facility would save the average energy user $300 annually.

The Department of State review of the project is at odds with an earlier decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which granted final federal permits to the project last month.

FERC released an impact study in January stating natural resources—such as wetlands, freshwater fisheries, shellfish and eelgrass beds—would not be significantly harmed by the project. The impact study also downplayed safety concerns.

But Republican State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. criticized FERC’s findings, stating that the agency was less than objective. “It has been long established that FERC is an apologist for the energy industry,” he said. “I don’t think that there was ever a project that they did not like.”

Conversely, the State Department, in its own study, raised concerns that by laying pipelines on the bottom of the Long Island Sound, heat from the pipes would negatively impact plant and fish life.

Suffolk County Legislator Edward P. Romaine, whose district includes the entire North Fork, said the project would have industrialized the Long Island Sound and changed it forever.

“Opposing Broadwater is a good step in ensuring that the Long Island Sound stays in public hands,” Mr. Romaine said. “He made the right decision in opposing the privatization of a public asset, which is the Long Island Sound.”

Because there are safety concerns, the State Department report says the Broadwater terminal would be better suited at least 20 miles off the coast of Long Island in the Atlantic Ocean. The report identifies at least three locations centered off the coastlines of New Jersey, New York City and Long Island.

U.S. Representative Tim Bishop of Southampton, who has opposed the plan since it was first introduced two years ago, also commended Governor Paterson for his decision.

“Today’s victory is a significant step forward in the process of finding long-term solutions to meet Long Island’s energy needs,” the congressman said following last Thursday’s announcement. “I applaud the governor and his administration for their sensible decision. I will continue to work with local, state and federal government officials to deliver safe and efficient energy solutions to Long Island.”

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