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Shell Broadwater Energy Gas Plant in L.I. Sound Is Rejected

THE NEW YORK TIMES: Gas Plant in L.I. Sound Is Rejected

Published: April 11, 2008

In his first major policy decision on the environment, Gov. David A. Paterson on Thursday blocked the nation’s first floating liquefied natural gas plant, which had been proposed for Long Island Sound. Moving ahead on the $700 million plant, he said, would put a large section of the Sound off limits to boaters and would not guarantee low-cost gas for Long Island.

“One of my goals as governor is to protect Long Island Sound,” Mr. Paterson said at Sunken Meadow State Park, on Long Island. “Shame on us if we can’t develop a responsible energy policy without sacrificing one of our greatest natural and economic resources.”

A broad range of environmental groups, community activists and elected officials from New York and Connecticut have strongly opposed the Broadwater Energy plan to build a 1,200-foot-long floating platform that looks like a ship and can hold up to 8 billion cubic feet of imported natural gas.

The proposed terminal, rising eight stories over the water line, would be moored in the widest part of Long Island Sound, nine miles north of Long Island and 10 miles from the Connecticut shoreline. Mr. Paterson’s decision now makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the project to move forward. Broadwater executives said they would consider their legal and regulatory options.

Mr. Paterson said the region could find other, more responsible ways to ensure sufficient energy supplies and he outlined a series of initial steps to meet growing energy demand. They include a new state energy plan and a $1 billion, 10-year program by the Long Island Power Authority to increase efficiency and to reduce energy consumption on Long Island.

The New York Power Authority would double its conservation budget to $1.4 billion through 2015 to reduce energy demand in government buildings.

“By reducing the amount of energy demand, and aggressively pursuing new responsible supply, we can get our state on a path toward lower energy costs, economic revitalization and a cleaner, healthier environment,” Mr. Paterson said.

The project’s opponents welcomed the governor’s initiatives. “What we’ve lacked up till now is general leadership on energy policy. We have that in Governor Paterson,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, a citizens’ group in Farmingdale, N.Y. “We are ready, willing and able to walk with him on that policy road.”

Mr. Paterson’s decision was reported by The Associated Press on Wednesday and in Newsday on Thursday.

Broadwater is an energy consortium made up of Shell Oil and TransCanada Pipelines. The group conducted a public relations campaign in hopes of convincing officials and residents that by increasing the supply of natural gas to the region, the project would reduce the utility bills of local residents by up to $300 a year after the terminal was put into full operation in 2011.

Under the plan, tankers loaded with liquefied natural gas would dock at the floating terminal every two or three days. The liquefied gas would be piped into the floating terminal, where it would be warmed and turned into vapor. The gas then would be sent via a 22-mile underwater pipeline to the existing Iroquois pipeline that crosses Long Island Sound and serves New York and Connecticut.

The project appeared to gain momentum last month when it was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Federal officials said that because Broadwater would have been the first floating natural gas terminal, it went through exceptional scrutiny before being approved. Even then, the commission imposed 80 conditions to improve safety and further reduce potential adverse environmental impacts.

Tamara Young-Allen, a commission spokeswoman, said that because the floating terminal would be moored within nine miles of the New York coast, the state had the right to review it for compliance with state laws.

Mr. Paterson said the New York Department of State has determined that the project was not consistent with New York’s coastal zone management plan partly because a safety zone that would have to be established around the terminal would severely limit other marine traffic.

Ms. Young-Allen said Broadwater has the right to file an appeal with the United States Department of Commerce, which has jurisdiction over such coastal zone regulations.

John Hritcko, senior vice president and regional project director for Broadwater, said the rejection represents a “missed opportunity” to lower energy prices for consumers and businesses.

“We continue to believe that the Broadwater project, as proposed, is the best option for New York State to meet its growing demand for clean, affordable, reliable natural gas,” Mr. Hritcko said in a statement.

The project’s supporters were disappointed with the decision. Diane Goins of Hempstead, a leader with the Long Island Chapter of Acorn, a community organization, said high energy costs were hurting low-income families. “We’ve got people in our community who have to make decisions about keeping the lights on or getting something to eat,” Ms. Goins said. “We felt that Broadwater was a solution. But now that they’ve made this decision, these elected officials have to come together to find some other solution.”

Wayne J. Hall Sr., the mayor of Hempstead and a project supporter, said it was good that Mr. Paterson was proposing alternatives, including a broad energy plan. “But how long is that going to take?” he said.

Broadwater’s opponents argued that the project would not reduce energy costs and represented an unacceptable risk because it would be vulnerable to a terrorist attack.

Although natural gas is considered the cleanest-burning fossil fuel, environmentalists said the terminal would jeopardize traditional industries on Long Island Sound, like fishing and oyster harvesting. “This is a body of water that millions of people reside around, and that billions of dollars have been spent to restore,” said Robert Moore, executive director of the nonprofit group Environmental Advocates of New York. “Energy efficiency really is the cheapest way of meeting our future energy needs.”

Angela Macropoulos contributed reporting.

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