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Connecticut Urges Rejection of Long Island Sound Gas Terminal

HARTFORD, Connecticut - Connecticut, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has formally urged New York to reject the proposed Broadwater liquid natural gas, LNG, facility nine miles from shore in Long Island Sound. He says a newly proposed LNG facility 20 miles off the coast of New Jersey would be safer and cause less environmental damage, while providing more natural gas.

Rejection is now clearly required by New York state law, Blumenthal said.

Broadwater Energy, a joint venture between Shell Oil and TransCanada Corporation, has proposed to permanently moor an LNG terminal to the bottom of Long Island Sound. Most of the gas from Broadwater would flow into New York City via Iroquois' Eastchester lateral from Northport to the terminus at Hunts Point.

Blumenthal filed comments Monday with the New York Office of General Services Division of Land Utilization, which is considering a key permit for the Broadwater project.

He said the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act mandates consideration of alternatives, including the newly proposed BlueOcean Energy LNG, a $1 billion floating terminal proposed by ExxonMobil in December. The act provides that the office must reject Broadwater if an alternative is safer with less environmental impact and provides comparable service.

Blumenthal wrote that Exxon's recently proposed BlueOcean Energy LNG is such an alternative, promising to provide New York and New Jersey with 20 percent more natural gas than Broadwater while causing less environmental damage and posing fewer public safety risks.

"BlueOcean Energy is a clear, direct alternative to Broadwater, which is obviously far less dangerous and destructive to the environment than Broadwater," Blumenthal wrote.

"While Broadwater would devastate pristine, untouched areas in Long Island Sound and endanger the lives of countless recreational and commercial sailors, the BlueOcean Energy project would be located 20 miles off the coast, away from crowded areas of the Sound," Blumenthal wrote.

"Compared with BlueOcean Energy, Broadwater has far greater negative environmental impact. Broadwater would require approximately 30 miles of undersea pipe while BlueOcean would build only 20 miles, the attorney general wrote. "Further, the seafloor of Long Island Sound has unique and highly vulnerable natural resources that would be compromised by construction as described in the attorney general's comments of April 20, 2007.

A draft environmental impact statement by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC, in 2006 estimates that Broadwater would handle 118 LNG carriers each year, about two per week.

FERC staff wrote that "The proposed project would result in fewer environmental impacts than any alternatives considered, and many alternatives could not meet the purpose and need of the proposed project."

Adverse environmental effects noted by FERC include the addition of a biocide to ballast water taken on by tankers during operations and then discharged into Long Island Sound, a "slight increase over current conditions" in the potential for ship strikes on whales and sea turtles, and an increase in underwater noise.

"There is a potential for an increased risk to public health and safety, but we consider the potential risk to be very low," FERC wrote.

FERC found a need for a new supply of "reliable, long-term, and competitively priced natural gas to the Long Island, New York City, and Connecticut markets..."

Broadwater estimates that approximately half of the natural gas sent out from the LNG terminal would be transported to New York City, about 25 to 30 percent would go to Long Island, and the remainder would go to Connecticut.

Presently, New York state's natural gas supply is predominantly sourced thousands of miles away in the Gulf Coast and Alberta, Canada.

"FERC staff evaluated the natural gas and electrical energy supply issues of the area. We found that the demand for natural gas in each of these areas is rising and is projected to generate increasing price pressure and volatility in the future if the supply remains at its current level," according to the draft environmental impact statement.

A 2007 assessment by the Long Island Power Authority finds that, "Broadwater is not needed now to ensure reliable energy supply for Long Island or New York City, but would clearly represent the most economic solution in the future to meet the region's robust energy demand growth."

On the other hand, Synapse Energy Economics, Inc., a Boston based consulting firm, released a 2006 report concluding that Broadwater is unnecessary to meet the region's energy needs. The report cites specific examples of how future energy needs can be met through a combination of energy projects already approved, existing renewable energy initiatives, and demand side management techniques.

The nonprofit Citizens Campaign for the Environment, based in New York with an office in Connecticut, is opposed to the Broadwater project, particularly to the "no public access zone" of 1.5 square miles that would surround the LNG terminal.

"This means that for the first time in the Sound's history, a section of the open water body will be given over to a private corporation, the environmental group says. "Gunned security vessels would patrol the no access zone 24/7. No fishing, boating, canoeing, swimming or sailing will be allowed."

"The Coast Guard report mandates an additional moving "no public access zone" around the incoming LNG tankers that would be 2 miles in front, 1 mile in back and 750 yards on each side. Armed escort boats would surround the tankers as they transverse the Sound, marking the moving zone and requiring all vessels to get out of the way," the group warns.

"These security zones would disrupt and conflict with traditional uses including commercial and recreational fishing, boating activities, fishing, shell fishing, sailing and even enjoyment of our beaches."

Attorney General Blumenthal sees even more serious problems. "Due to the confined environment of the Sound," he wrote, "any accident or terrorist attack involving either the LNG facility or its attendant tankers would pose a vastly greater threat of unacceptable damage than would an accident in open waters of the Atlantic Ocean."

The FERC draft environmental impact statement deals with the threat of terrorist attack only by saying, "It is possible that a release [of LNG] could be caused by an intentional act, such as a terrorist attack, although an intentional breach scenario may result in greater thermal radiation, such scenarios are associated with the desire to inflict damage to major infrastructure, population and commercial centers, rather than to environmentally sensitive areas along the vessel route."

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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