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New Times Live: Broadwater: Long Island Sound not the place for natural gas terminal

Jan 13 2007

Gov. M. Jodi Rell says building a natural gas terminal in the middle of Long Island Sound is like building “a factory in the middle of a national park.”

That was the reaction of most people when Shell Oil and TransCanada Pipelines first announced they wanted to build the terminal, and that reaction hasn’t changed despite assurances about safety and environmental protection.

The consortium formed by Shell and TransCanada, Broadwater Energy, proposes to build a $700 million floating terminal the size of an ocean liner.

Large tankers carrying natural gas would dock at the terminal. To be shipped by tanker, natural gas is cooled and condensed into a liquid. At the terminal, the liquefied natural gas would be heated and pumped as gas into the Iroquois pipeline that runs between Milford, Conn., and Long Island.

This week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission began a series of public hearings in New York and Connecticut on the Broadwater proposal.

Opposition was strong, and so was Broadwater’s defense of its proposal. The company claims the terminal will save consumers $300 to $400 a year. Critics say those figures are exaggerated.

New England needs better access to energy supplies and cheaper energy prices. But the debate about Broadwater has always been more about the safety of building this terminal in the middle of Long Island Sound and the impact of it on marine traffic and the environment.

For example, the plant would take in millions of gallons of water each day and discharge water that is slightly warmer than the Sound. There are concerns that this will be a threat to marine life, including fish larvae.

A Coast Guard study of the project said tankers would require escort boats and a permanent security zone would have to be created around the terminal.

An environmental study by FERC staff found few problems with the Broadwater proposal. New York regulators, however, do have problems. They have raised concerns about the conflict between the decades-long effort to protect Long Island Sound and this proposal to construct a gas terminal in it.

The Broadwater terminal would be anchored in New York waters. It would require an easement from New York for that anchorage and for the terminal pipeline that would connect to the Iroquois pipeline.

As FERC examines the Broadwater proposal, it must give careful consideration to the precedent set by putting this “factory in the middle of a national park.”

It also should examine the need for this terminal. Two terminals have been approved in Massachusetts to connect to existing pipelines. Terminals are being built in Canada that also will connect to pipelines that supply New England and New York. Is another terminal really needed?

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