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Newsday.com: Rep. Shays ‘ashamed’ of his opposition to Broadwater plant: ‘pathetic to see a congressman buckle under the weight of Shell Oil’s lobbying’

BY MICHAEL AMON | [email protected]
9:10 PM EDT, October 6, 2007

Rep. Christopher Shays said yesterday that he was “becoming ashamed” of his opposition to the Broadwater liquefied natural gas plant proposed for the Long Island Sound.

At a forum in Centerport on the Sound’s environmental health, Shays (R-Conn.) said he was “getting cynical about the critics” of the LNG plant and urged environmentalists to be willing to compromise on the issue.

“We have got to create energy,” Shays said, adding that he was concerned about high energy costs. “I’m formally against Broadwater, but I’m becoming ashamed that I am.”

Nevertheless, after the forum, Shays said — for the moment — he remains opposed to the floating natural gas plant that has drawn fire from a host of elected officials in New York and Connecticut, along with a coalition of environmentalists and civic groups. Environmentalists and a chorus of critics oppose the Broadwater plant for ecological, safety and aesthetic reasons.

Shays touted his opposition to the plant in a close re-election fight last year.But in response to questions, Shays told a group of about 30 environmentalists gathered at the Vanderbilt Museum, “When people say, ‘It’s going to be an eyesore,’ that cannot be the basis” for opposing Broadwater.

His remarks shocked some of the forum’s attendees and took its host, Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) — a vocal Broadwater foe — by surprise.

“I disagree with him fundamentally on it,” Israel said after the forum. Broadwater “turns Long Island Sound into an industrial zone.”

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Farmingdale-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment, shook her head in disbelief as she listened to Shays.

“I would say it was pathetic to see a congressman buckle under the weight of Shell Oil’s lobbying,” Esposito said, referring to one of Broadwater’s parent companies. “He should be as brave as Congressman Israel is in standing up to them.”

In a subsequent interview, Shays said he merely wanted a more “constructive dialogue” on the issue.

“Now what I’m wrestling with is that people in Connecticut and Long Island are dealing with high energy costs,” Shays said. “We’ve got to have an intelligent debate about what pluses are and what it’s minuses are. Right now, we are not having an honest debate.”

He said he had heard a lot of “absurd comments” from critics, such as that the LNG plant should be located closer to already industrialized cities.

“Let’s not invent reasons to be against it that are wrong,” Shays said. “What I’m feeling is: We’re not coming up with alternatives.”

In a statement, John Hritcko, a Shell executive and Broadwater’s project director, called Shays’ comments “heartening.”

“New York and Connecticut desperately need affordable, safe, dependable energy alternatives such as Broadwater, not activist rhetoric,” he said.

If approved, the Broadwater facility would be set about 9 miles off the coast of Long Island, north of the Wading River-Shoreham area, and about 11 miles from Connecticut. It would send about 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day into the pipeline.

A draft environmental impact statement from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — which can approve or reject federal permits for Broadwater — said the project would “result in limited adverse environmental impact.” A final study is expected soon, as is a decision from FERC but environmentalists have already derided the draft report. Broadwater must also be approved by New York state agencies.

Copyright © 2007, Newsday Inc.

http://www.newsday.com/news/local/ny-lisoun1007,0,6144118.story

Related story: Skeptics blast Shell’s grant

http://www.newsday.com/news/local/ny-libroa224901396sep22,0,1624484.story

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