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New Haven Register (Connecticut): Developers say lawmakers ignoring energy woes

03/10/2007
Associated Press 

HARTFORD: Developers of a proposed liquefied natural gas terminal in Long Island Sound accused some state officials Friday of ignoring the big picture of Connecticut’s energy woes as they continue to battle the project.

“What we need in this project is less political heat and more objective light,” Gary Vale, a spokesman for Broadwater Energy, said.

“By saying no all the time, they’ve created a situation where we now have the highest electric rates in the nation except for Hawaii, which is an island,” he said. “And the fact that the we have the highest energy rates and one of the lowest job growth rates, those dots connect.”

Broadwater Energy — a consortium of Shell Oil and TransCanada Pipelines Ltd. — is meeting with media and other groups to win favor for the $700 million terminal, proposed nine miles off Wading River, N.Y., and 10 miles south of New Haven. Broadwater claims the 1,200-foot-long, 180-foot-wide, offshore terminal will increase and diversify local supplies of natural gas and ultimately lower future natural gas and electricity prices by an average of $680 million per year in the New York, Long Island and Connecticut region.

“We have such strong demand and such big problems facing Connecticut right now with our energy,” said John Hritcko Jr., senior vice president and regional project director for Broadwater. “If we don’t start putting some of the pieces of the puzzle together, we’re going to fall behind and we’re going to have a crisis. What we’re trying to do is divert that crisis.”

State Sen. Leonard A. Fasano, R-North Haven, co-chairman of Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s task force that investigated the storage facility’s effect on Connecticut, said he and other officials are considering the “big picture” as they challenge Broadwater. They maintain there are alternative sources to delivering natural gas to the region.

“What it is, it’s greed,” Fasano said of the project. “It’s a bunch of bunk to say it’s going to lower prices. This is a rush to get contracts in the New York area. I don’t care about that.”

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has called Broadwater “an unacceptable security danger, an environmental atrocity and an aesthetic monstrosity.” This session, he and some legislators are proposing several bills designed to give Connecticut a louder voice when it comes to security issues surrounding the floating terminal.

Since the terminal is proposed for New York waters, Connecticut has little say over the project. The Federal Environmental Regulatory Commission will make a final ruling.

Broadwater officials said the bills in the Connecticut legislature are an attempt to kill the project — a charge Fasano denied.

“If we wanted to kill the project, our reports would have said kill the project,” he said of the task force. “Our reports say, ‘Hey, there’s not enough information.’”

One bill would require Broadwater to gain state approval before hiring a private, armed security force. Hritcko said such legislation is premature. He said Broadwater is working with the U.S. Coast Guard on an emergency response plan.

“It may not be private security. It may very well be either state or local police out there doing that type of activity,” he said. “So, to speculate right now, and to say it’s going to be private security with armed guards is stretching it because we’re still in discussions.”

Other legislation would require the attorney general and state Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security to make recommendations to the federal government concerning a security zone around the terminal. Any zone and the use of private security would have to be approved by the governor and attorney general.

Hritcko suggested Broadwater might challenge any legislation in court if it appears that state officials who oppose the project are only trying to create more layers of regulations. 

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