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Source: Riverhead Times Review

Feds sink Broadwater plan

Commerce Secretary upholds New York ruling


Posted: April 14, 2009
Originally Published: April 13, 2009

Broadwater Energy's appeal to the U.S. secretary of commerce has been denied, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced this morning. The commerce secretary's denial marks the end of the administrative process for Broadwater. The fate of the energy company's plan to build a natural gas terminal in the middle of L.I. Sound now rests with the courts. Several court actions are already pending and a new one challenging the commerce secretary's decision today is expected, opponents of the proposal say.

Broadwater Energy, a joint venture of Shell Oil and Transcanada Pipelines, wants to moor a 1,200-foot-long floating natural gas terminal in L.I. Sound, about nine miles off the coast of Wading River. The terminal would receive shipments of liquefied natural gas from oceangoing LNG tankers, heat the LNG to return it to its gaseous state, then supply it to the metropolitan New York area via a new 23-mile subsea pipeline that would connect to an existing gas distribution system.

The Broadwater terminal would supply the region with about 1.3 billion cubic yards of natural gas daily. Proponents of the plan argue that the region needs to increase its natural gas supply, and Broadwater would add consistency and stability to the regional supply, resulting in lower consumer energy costs. Opponents argue that the facility would increase our nation's dependence on foreign fossil fuel energy sources, industrialize L.I. Sound, disrupt water transportation, harm the commercial and recreational boating and fishing industries and damage the Sound's ecosystem.

Opposition to the Broadwater plan was swift and widespread upon its announcement in Nov. 2004. Suffolk County, as well as the towns of Riverhead, Southold and East Hampton brought lawsuits attempting to block the proposal. Although the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved Broadwater's permit application in March 2008, it was subject to a ruling by the N.Y. secretary of state that the plan is consistent with the state's coastal management policy. One year ago, Gov. David Paterson announced the state's rejection of Broadwater's proposal. The energy company then appealed to the U.S. commerce secretary to override the state's objection, as federal law allows.

Opponents hope the secretary's much-anticipated decision will be the death knell for the Broadwater plan. One leading opponent of the proposal, Adrienne Esposito of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, a Farmingdale-based environmental advocacy group, hailed the decision as a triumph for democracy.

"This truly is David winning over Goliath," Ms. Esposito said.

Broadwater could appeal the commerce secretary's decision in federal court. Broadwater senior vice president John Hritcko Jr. called the commerce secretary's decision "disappointing" and said the company is weighing its options. "It's going to take us some time to wade through the decision and see exactly what they were saying, and decide how to proceed from here," Mr. Hritcko said. "We still believe the region needs the gas."

Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton), long an outspoken opponent of Broadwater, said the commerce secretary's decision was "the final nail in Broadwater's coffin."

The Department of Commerce concluded that the project's adverse coastal impacts outweighed its national interest, Mr. Bishop said in a statement. He said the decision was made in part because the terminal's location in an undeveloped region of the Sound would "significantly impair its unique scenic and aesthetic character and would undermine decades of federal, state, and local efforts to protect the region." Mr. Bishop said he is committed to working with federal, state and local officials to deliver safe and efficient energy solutions to Long Island.

Longtime Broadwater opponent Sid Bail, president of the Wading River Civic Association and a a driving force behind the Anti-Broadwater Coalition was happy to hear news of the decision. "I am delighted and I think we can finally put this behind us and address Long Island's energy needs in a more acceptable fashion," Mr. Bail said. "This is great news," he said. "Christmas has come early on Long Island."