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The Hartford Courant (Connecticut): Rell, Task Force Assail Broadwater Regulators

By DAVID FUNKHOUSER | Courant Staff Writer
March 13, 2008

Gov. M. Jodi Rell blasted federal regulators Wednesday for their “ludicrous” assessment of the Broadwater natural gas plant proposal and called on them to reject the project as “an environmental nightmare.”

Rell made her remarks in response to a final report from a task force she set up two years ago to monitor the project. That report, due out today, says the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has failed to protect the public interest and consider other sources for the region’s energy needs.

Rell called the report a “scathing indictment” of the agency’s “single-minded focus on approving the Broadwater platform no matter what the evidence shows.”

“Broadwater and FERC have both failed in their attempts to demonstrate a real energy need” for the plant, said state Sen. Len Fasano, R- North Haven, co-chairman of the task force. “The Broadwater project has always been more about corporate greed than about real energy solutions.”

The report comes as the federal energy commission and New York state are poised to reach key decisions on the project.

The federal energy commission’s staff issued an environmental impact report in January concluding that Broadwater — a liquefied natural gas processing plant about four football fields long that would be moored in the middle of Long Island Sound — would not cause substantial harm to the environment and could be safely operated.

A commission spokeswoman said Wednesday that the commissioners “don’t comment on pending cases” but would address any questions raised by the task force during their deliberations. The commission meets next on March 20.

Rell’s comments are “replete with emotionally charged rhetoric that adds nothing to the debate about the high cost of energy” and the state’s future energy needs, Broadwater executive John Hritcko Jr. said.

Hritcko, who said he had not seen the report, said it appeared to be “bought and paid for by a Broadwater opposition group.” He said the governor was ignoring the 2007 energy plan developed by the Connecticut Energy Advisory Board that recommends the development of natural gas transmission and storage projects.

The gas plant, proposed by Shell Oil and TransCanada Pipeline, would sit 9 miles off Long Island and about 10.5 miles off Branford. The plant would process liquefied natural gas shipped across the Atlantic and pipe it to New York and Connecticut.

Proponents say the plant would provide a reliable source of energy to meet rising demand. Opponents argue the project would pose unacceptable safety risks and cause irreparable environmental damage.

The task force concluded that the commission staff “never performed a serious analysis” of environmental consequences and based its results partly on outdated data, Rell said.

The agency ignored other proposals that could fill the region’s energy needs, Rell said, including a planned expansion of the Iroquois gas pipeline across the Sound and a proposed liquefied natural gas project in New Jersey.

“I cannot fathom FERC’s insistence on moving forward with this environmental nightmare,” Rell said.

The New York Department of State is supposed to rule by April 11 on whether Broadwater is consistent with the state’s policies for coastal areas. It is one of three New York agencies with a say over the project. Because the plant would be in New York waters, no Connecticut agencies have a direct say.

The New York decision has been clouded by the resignation Wednesday of Gov. Eliot Spitzer in the midst of a scandal over his alleged patronage of a prostitution service. Spitzer had not taken a public position on the project.

Rell said she planned to call incoming New York Gov. David Paterson, who takes over from Spitzer Monday, to urge him to oppose the project.

Contact David Funkhouser at [email protected].

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