THE NEW YORK TIMES: A Peaceful Place, Still Ready to Fight (a Gas Plant): “Broadwater Energy, a partnership formed for the project by TransCanada Corporation of Calgary and Shell U.S. Gas and Power of Houston, an affiliate of the Royal Dutch Shell Group, is proposing to build what could become the first offshore liquefied natural-gas facility.” (ShellNews.net) 23 Jan 05
By PETER APPLEBOME
Published: January 23, 2005
Wading River, N.Y.
JUST outside the little shopping district is the blue and gray hulk of the shuttered Shoreham nuclear plant, like the brooding ghost of a vanished industrial civilization. To the south is Brookhaven National Laboratory, with its own tortured environmental history. Farther east, in Southold, officials are stewing because they were not notified about license renewal hearings for the Millstone nuclear plant, across the Sound in Connecticut, but close enough that they worry about evacuation plans. Then there's Plum Island and its ominous, obscure research, the dispute over the Cross Sound Cable to Connecticut, the long struggles over preserving the Long Island Pine Barrens.
Nowhere in the New York area, it seems, is there such a pervasive buzz of environmental alarm coexisting in such a bucolic setting as on Eastern Long Island, particularly here on the North Shore. And the buzz was more like a car alarm at 2 a.m. last week, when more than 60 environmentalists, civic leaders and others gathered at Shoreham, the nation's only nuclear plant that was built but never allowed to fully open, carrying signs reading, "Broadwater: The Shoreham of a New Decade."
Whether it is and whether it can be stopped as Shoreham was remains to be seen. But it's clear that the proposal for Broadwater, a huge terminal for liquefied natural gas that would be built in Long Island Sound, has once again guaranteed that the Island's environmental politics will be running at full tilt.
This is a proposal that would probably generate some controversy in many other places as well. Broadwater Energy, a partnership formed for the project by TransCanada Corporation of Calgary and Shell U.S. Gas and Power of Houston, an affiliate of the Royal Dutch Shell Group, is proposing to build what could become the first offshore liquefied natural-gas facility.
The gas plant, a floating structure resembling an ocean tanker and permanently moored to a tower anchored to the bottom of the Sound, would be 1,100 feet long, 180 feet wide and up to 100 feet above the waterline. Tankers would enter the Sound, deliver natural gas, cooled to 260 degrees below zero to make it liquid and thus denser and easier to store and transport.
At the station, the liquid would be warmed until it becomes a gas again. Then it would be sent through a new 25-mile-long pipeline connected to the existing Iroquois pipeline and on to Long Island, New York City and Connecticut.
Critics have already raised many health, safety and environmental issues, citing some catastrophic accidents at existing facilities and on tankers. And here in a town founded in 1671, where businesses tend to have names like the Duck and the Daisy, Andrew's by the Pond, and the Hickory Swings, the project, even nine miles offshore, seems to many an alien idea.
"It's too close," said Linda Mathews, who moved here from Queens after Sept. 11 and works at the Hickory Swings, a music and video store. "Especially when you think of the terrorists, it's like a bomb waiting to go off."
FOR all the technical, environmental and safety issues, the opponents' case may rely on something similarly visceral - whether the project is consistent with the way that people want the Sound to be.
The executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Adrienne Esposito, said the project set a horrible precedent toward industrializing the Sound. "What this does is change the Long Island Sound from an open natural resource into commercial real estate," she said. "We don't feel we should be the generation that sells off the Long Island Sound in small portions - it's not ours to give and it's not theirs to take."
The project director, John Hritcko Jr., said the health and environmental issues were overblown and any risks were limited to the immediate site and could not possibly warrant any kind of broader evacuation. He said the project was in the early stages of a full environmental review and cited a December 2004 study by Sandia National Laboratories, a Department of Energy center in New Mexico, which said the location nine miles from shore would not endanger communities on Long Island.
"The fact that someone has a home on the shoreline and doesn't want to see it does not offset the benefits this will bring in terms of getting energy costs under control, helping to keep the air clean and providing a healthy, vibrant economic future," he said.
The final decision on the project will be made by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission after reviews and permit applications before many federal and state bodies. Never underestimate the chances of a global energy giant, but in Suffolk County, the critics have played this game with great skill in the past and are geared up to do it again.
The executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, Richard Amper, said two dozen groups were on board as opposed to the project, with about two dozen more soon to join them. "Long Island doesn't have the need, doesn't get the benefit and takes all the risk," he said.