Citing economic, environmental and safety concerns, New York State has rejected a proposal to develop a floating liquefied natural gas terminal on Long Island Sound.
“Broadwater Energy does not pass the test,” said New York Gov. David Paterson in announcing the decision on April 10, 2008.
The developer, Broadwater Energy, said it still hopes to move ahead, and plans to appeal New York’s decision to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, but the opposition from New York will at least delay the project significantly and may kill it. Connecticut also opposes the project, further reducing the chances that it will ever be built.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the project on March 20, 2008, but the support of New York State was considered vital. Moreover, Connecticut was preparing to request a rehearing of the FERC approval and if necessary to oppose the project before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Broadwater Energy had proposed an LNG terminal in water 90 feet deep, approximately 9.5 miles off Riverhead, N.Y. The floating structure would have been 1,215 feet long and 200 feet wide, rising approximately 80 feet above the water’s surface. Included in the proposal was construction of a 21.7-mile long, 30-inch diameter underwater pipeline connecting to the existing pipeline systems under Long Island Sound. The project is a joint venture of Shell U.S. Gas and Power and TransCanada PipeLines Ltd.
A vital issue in making the decision was preserving Long Island Sound as a valuable estuary and an economic engine for the region, said Paterson.
Paterson explained, “It would be the first time in the history of Long Island Sound that a section of open water this size was handed over to a private company to the exclusion of the public. Privatizing open water would be fundamentally wrong and serve as a dangerous precedent for industrializing a body of water that people have spent years and millions of dollars trying to clean up.”
LNG safety issues and the floating LNG terminal’s potential as a terrorist target were also important factors.
Broadwater Energy’s proposal acknowledged that “annually, 4,000 to 7,000 commercial vessels transit the Sound.”
A state assessment of the project noted that every transit of an LNG tanker would require invoking a 2,040-acre moving security zone from which almost all other vessels would be excluded. “LNG carriers up to 1,100 feet long would make as many as 156 deliveries each year,” the assessment said.
On at least 208 days per year, the tanker movements “would disrupt commercial and recreational fishing, disrupting a way of life on the Sound and potentially putting families out of business,” said Paterson.
Ferries on six existing routes would be the only commercial or private vessels allowed to enter the exclusion zone while the tankers moved through Long Island Sound and to and from Block Island Sound.
The state’s assessment described environmental impacts adversely affecting over $7.2 billion in public investments been “made over the past 20 years to improve the Sound’s ecosystem.”
One issue was the anticipated “damage to a 4,000 foot long section of the ecologically important Stratford Shoal by dredging 40,000 cubic yards of the shoal to install part of its new pipeline.”
Stratford Shoal, the assessment said, “hosts a rare assemblage of cold water corals and sponges.”
The assessment also addressed the water consumption issue. “Broadwater and its carriers would use 28.2 million gallons per day of seawater for ballast, power generation and other uses and that 270 million eggs, larvae and juvenile fish and unknown numbers of other small fish would be killed annually through the water intake,” according to the assessment, leading to “a significant adverse effect on the food chain that the Sound depends on for its ecological health.”