November 29, 2006

A Shameless Rubber Stamping

The fact that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has rubber-stamped the installation of a floating liquid natural gas barge in Long Island Sound shouldn't come as a surprise.

Nor should the fact that the Broadwater public relations machine used the report to validate its project — despite the fact the project has been rebuffed by virtually every public official in the region, and every opinion poll taken proves there is virtually no support for the project.

Broadwater, through a series of spins and deceptions — taking phrases out of context, conducting polls with misleading verbiage designed to confuse — has been treading water, waiting for this day to come.

That's because FERC under the Bush administration has become a shill for big oil money. The president himself, while governor of Texas, was at least partially responsible for the California energy crisis. His appointees set in motion the series of events that allowed Enron — Bush family political cronies — to get rich by manipulating the market.

President Bush, the recipient of millions of dollars of oil money, has stacked FERC to the extent any oil company-related project, be it drilling in an environmentally sensitive area to floating the ticking time bomb on the agenda here, is an automatic shameless rubber stamp.

Forget the double-talk offered by Broadwater, LNG facilities are not safe. In fact, there have been disasters all over the world. A typical facility can store the equivalent of 20 billion gallons of natural gas. An explosion would trigger a force roughly equal to 55 times the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The tankers themselves — identified by our own national security as Al Qaeda threats — are 12 stories high, and move at speeds up to 20 knots. It takes five miles to bring one to a halt.

These monsters, and their Coast Guard escorts, would be rounding Montauk Point and passing the mouth of Gardiners Bay every other day. Though carrying LNG, the ships would doubtless run on diesel fuel, and a spill or leak capable of wiping out the intricate, delicate ecosystem would be inevitable.

Typical of this country's willingness to shield the rich from paying their fair share, liability laws have been passed that severely limit the ability of municipalities and individuals harmed by an LNG disaster to collect damages from the owners. One recent explosion in Algeria caused $800 million worth of damage. In other words, should a worse case scenario occur, taxpayers would be left holding the bag.

Add all of the above to the fact that the Long Island Sound, already environmentally unstable, needs less traffic, not more, especially the size and magnitude proposed here. Finally, this is a scenic resort area, our waters enjoyed by fishermen and sailing enthusiasts. Imagine the lurking presence of a facility three times the size of a football field — bigger than Yankee Stadium — sitting in the middle of the water, waiting for disaster to strike. Hardly the peaceful setting that draws vacationers and second homeowners.

It is essential every municipal and civic group incessantly badger Washington and Albany. We must do whatever it takes to stop Broadwater.

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