November 22, 2006

Sparking Public Outcry FERC Gives Broadwater Green Light

"I wonder what drugs they are taking."

So commented Riverhead Town Supervisor Phil Cardinale this week after a recently released Draft Environmental Impact Statement by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission determined the proposed Broadwater project would have limited adverse environmental impacts.

Upon reading the report, Broadwater opponents across the board reacted with incredulity and fury, sounding a battle cry as they vowed to do whatever it takes to stop the project from becoming a reality.

Broadwater Energy, a joint venture between TransCanada Pipeline and Shell, has proposed locating a floating liquefied natural gas terminal approximately nine miles off the North Fork, igniting a hotbed of controversy that blazed anew this week as news of the FERC's report sparked intense reactions.

In its report, the FERC said that based on the analysis included in the draft EIS, "We have determined that construction of operation of the proposed project, with the adoption of the FERC and Coast Guard recommendations, would result in limited adverse environmental impacts."

As part of its analysis, the FERC developed mitigation methods that the agency said would lessen environmental impacts of the project and recommended the measures be attached as conditions to any authorization issued by the Commission. "We have concluded that, if the project is implemented as planned with the identified mitigation measures during design, construction, and operation, it would be an environmentally acceptable action," read the statement.

The words were a call to arms for legions of incensed Broadwater opponents. "Broadwater is getting scarier and scarier," said Dick Amper of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society. "Any Long Islander who hasn't been worried up to this point needs to start worrying now."

Amper said despite the fact that Broadwater has been decried by residents and elected officials, who "hate the project," it is, in fact, "still alive because of the Washington bureaucracy known as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission."

Amper and others, including Adrienne Esposito of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, agree that while an outrage, the FERC's determination is not altogether unexpected.

"FERC staff must be exhausted from all the cheerleading they have been doing for LNG facilities throughout the nation," said Esposito. "We knew FERC would come out strong for Broadwater. The document is so lopsided it's meaningless."

Sid Bail, president of the Wading River Civic Association, said he was not surprised: "It's not news if dog bites man." FERC reacting differently "would have been the equivalent of man bites dog."

Some say the time to act is now. "This is the moment at which Long Island has to come together as it has in crises such as Shoreham and protecting the Pine Barrens and develop an immediate strategy at every level," said Amper, who noted the Long Island congressional delegation needs to "move and say no."

Congressman Tim Bishop spoke out about the FERC's determination. "While Broadwater has cleared a small hurdle, I remain strongly opposed and will work in the new Congress to block any attempt to industrialize Long Island Sound," he said. "I'm not surprised that a commission hand-picked by the president to make sure LNG platforms are green-lighted chose to rubber stamp this environmental review."

Bishop added that since no facility to Broadwater has ever been constructed, for FERC to suggest environmental consequences can be assessed is "purely speculative. Common sense says you cannot put an industrial plant in the middle of Long Island Sound without damaging the environment."

Cardinale agreed and added that Broadwater, with its proposed one or two mile required perimeter, would introduce a new and substantial burden on the environment for recreational boaters and others. The supervisor also questioned the "profit-making operation," which would be set in the middle of a public recreational area on the water, stating that precedents would be set.

Broadwater Energy issued a statement after FERC's news. "Broadwater Energy today reached another major milestone," the company said, pointing out key FERC points such as an additional natural gas supply deemed necessary for electrical generation and to meet regional air quality objectives; that Broadwater would result in fewer environmental impacts than any alternatives considered; and that Broadwater would not impact sensitive onshore or near shore resources.

The DEIS release begins a public comment period, which will be followed by the release of the final EIS.

"The issuance of the DEIS is an important step forward for the Broadwater project to provide Long Island, New York City and Connecticut with a safe, affordable supply of clean-burning natural gas, and we are encouraged by these preliminary findings," said John Hritcko, Sr. Vice President, Broadwater Energy.

In September, the United States Coast Guard released its Waterways Suitability Report (WSR), which found that by employing certain measures to ensure navigation safety and maritime security, Long Island Sound is a suitable location for Broadwater.

Broadwater must receive all required federal and state permits before the project can commence construction.

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