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New York Times: In Gas-Plant Plan, a Weighty Silent Voice


AT the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission hearings this month on Broadwater Energy’s proposed floating natural gas plant in Long Island Sound, opponents seemed to be addressing a man who was not there.

That would be Eliot Spitzer, New York’s new governor, who has been silent so far on the $700 million project but will soon make a decision that could determine whether it proceeds.

In coming weeks, Mr. Spitzer will rule whether the liquefied natural gas plant is consistent with New York’s coastal management program for the Sound. The plant — 1,800 feet long and 80 feet high — would be permanently moored 9 miles off Wading River and 11 miles from Connecticut. The program, administered by the New York State Department of State, tries to balance economic development and environmental preservation in and around the Sound. The department is reviewing the Broadwater project.

If Mr. Spitzer finds the project contrary to state policies for the Sound, Broadwater, a partnership of Shell Oil Company and the TransCanada Corporation, would be blocked from proceeding even if the Energy Regulatory Commission, the federal agency with jurisdiction over such projects, approved it.

John Hritcko Jr., senior vice president and regional project director for Broadwater Energy, said recently that the company would appeal a finding of inconsistency to Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez and, if necessary, in a federal appeals court. If Mr. Spitzer signs a letter of consistency, Broadwater would advance toward its goal of building the plant in 2010. Opponents, including Suffolk, several Suffolk towns and opponents’ groups, would be left to challenge the decision.

Mark Violette, a spokesman for the governor, said Mr. Spitzer would reserve judgment on the project until the State Department of State completed its review. Mr. Spitzer’s decision is expected by March.

Although the Broadwater plant is in New York waters, the Connecticut attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, contended that Connecticut had “clear regulatory authority” under its coastal zone management powers because the exclusionary zone around the plant and the tankers that supply it would extend into Connecticut waters.

Broadwater also needs approvals from New York’s Departments of Environmental Conservation and General Services.

But Gov. M. Jodi Rell of Connecticut said in testimony to the commission that the state had “little to gain and, potentially, a great deal to lose if this project moves forward.” She said the project “does not make sense for our state, environmentally or economically” and promised to fight it.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission held well-attended hearings in New London, Conn., on Jan. 9, in Smithtown, N.Y., on Jan. 10, in Shoreham, N.Y., on Jan. 11 and in Branford, Conn., last Tuesday. Opponents turned out in large numbers, but the project got support from trade union members who attended the Smithtown hearing wearing orange caps to identify themselves.

Opponents have flooded Mr. Spitzer with letters urging rejection of a project they said would industrialize, militarize and privatize the Sound, be a visual blight and a terrorist target, harm fisheries including those for lobsters, and routinely dump heated and chemical-laced water into a national estuary.

“All eyes are on Spitzer,” said Adrienne Esposito, the executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment of Farmingdale and a leader of a Long Island and Connecticut coalition against the project. “We are calling on the people’s governor to protect the people’s estuary.”

Broadwater has disputed arguments that the project would industrialize the Sound and harm the environment. The company also says the plant’s location in the middle of the Sound would make it barely visible from shore and safer in what it says is the unlikely event of a terrorist attack or an accident.

Broadwater also says public support for the plant and the gas it would deliver is growing. On the eve of the first Long Island hearing, the company, which had hired its own polling company, released a telephone poll showing that 62 percent of Long Island voters would support the project. Opponents said public opposition was overwhelming and called the poll inaccurate and misleading.

The federal hearings sought comments on a draft environmental impact statement the commission released on Nov. 23 that found the project was needed, safe and without any adverse environmental impacts that could not be mitigated. The draft included 79 conditions Broadwater would have to meet.

In September the Coast Guard issued a safety and security report that found the project was suitable for the Sound provided the measures it outlined were taken. But the report also said the Coast Guard would need assistance. Questions of how costs would be shared and how much New York and local governments would pay are unresolved.

A final impact statement is expected within four months, clearing the way for the commission’s decision on the project later this year. The comment period on the draft closes on Tuesday.

January 21, 2007 and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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