U.S Commerce Secretary Has Found for the Sound

by Marcia Chambers | April 13, 2009 7:02 PM | | Comments (3)

An attempt to build a liquefied natural gas terminal on Long Island Sound was blown out of the water yet again Monday thanks to a ruling by U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.

Secretary Locke, issued a 37-page decision denying an appeal by Houston based Broadwater Energy LLC, and Broadwater Pipeline LLC, a joint venture between Shell Oil and Tran Canada, of an earlier ruling by New York State.

Locke had to balance the national interest against the adverse coastal effect of setting a permanent 1,215 feet long and 200-foot wide liquid natural gas terminal in the middle of Long Island Sound. If built the terminal would be located in New York,nine miles north of Wading River and 10 miles south of Branford. In the end, he found for the Sound.

Broadwater officials, who two weeks ago insisted to some publications that the decision would go their way, have been rejected again. The project has produced fierce opposition from Connecticut’s elected officials, especially those in Branford, the town most directly affected on the Connecticut shoreline.

Branford State Rep.Lonnie Reed led the fight against Broadwater beginning in 2004 when she spear-headed a resolution through the Representative Town Meeting. She later co-founded Hands Across the Pond, an organization designed to get Connecticut and New York working together on mutual energy issues. Now in the state legislature, she said she has co-sponsored a bill to create a bi-state commission with a mission to do just that. “That would be a Broadwater legacy to treasure.”

She observed that “the brand new Commerce Secretary could have asked for an extension to buy time before issuing his decision, but he elected to make a quick, bold and decisive move. As a former Governor of Washington state, Secretary Locke knows something about vulnerable bodies of water. Washington’s Puget Sound and our Long Island Sound are both beloved and federally designated, ‘Estuaries of National Significance.’ I can’t help thinking that there is a bit of Kismet in how this has all played out”.

State Sen. Edward Meyer, and First Selectman Unk DaRos, along with Attorney General Richard Blumenthal have fought the project for years now. They say Broadwater is a threat to the environment. Blumenthal says the terminal is an easy target for terrorists. A year ago Blumenthal, Reed, Meyer and others made a plea to New York Governor David A. Paterson to reject the Broadwater facility. Paterson did. It was Paterson’s decision that was upheld today.

“The Broadwater proposal was the embodiment of the Bush Administration’s failure to envision or articulate any comprehensive energy plan for our region or the nation; I hope today’s news signals new direction in that regard by the Obama Administration,” Meyer said in a statement issued by his office. Read the full statement here.”

Save the Sound, a program of Connecticut Fund for the Environment, praised the Secretary’s decision.

“In upholding the New York Department of State’s decision on Broadwater, Secretary Locke demonstrated that state agencies are in the best position to judge what is appropriate for their local water bodies and citizens. Mr. Locke’s decision is a great decision,” said Leah Schmalz, director of legislative and legal affairs for Save the Sound.

“Four years ago when this project was introduced, the citizens of New York and Connecticut knew it was the wrong project for the wrong place. Shell didn’t listen to us, but now they are hearing the same message from state and federal leaders.”

The Secretary’s detailed decision, which includes 285 footnotes, said a deck would rise 75 to 100 feet above the water line. “It would constitute the only surface structure of its kind within the Sound and would significantly differ in size from the vast majority of vessel traffic currently using the sound. Flashing white lights would be installed on the terminal and the mooring tower as aids to navigation. Two flashing red “aviation obstruction lights would likely be required by the federal aviation administration, one on the emergency flare tower (approximately 280 feet above the water line) and a second on the radar mast adjacent to the helipad ( approximately 180 feet above the water line.)

The report went on to say that the flare tower would be painted with alternating bands of orange and white. “The terminal would be visible 80 percent of the time from potential viewing locations distributed along approximately 44 miles of New York shoreline, and to all water-born vessels within 25 miles.”

The Secretary’s ruling prevents Broadwater from obtaining any federal permits necessary for the construction and operation of the project.

New York objected to the project under the Coastal Zone Management Act and today’s decision upholds New York’s position.

Locke concluded that “based upon a preponderance of the evidence contained within the decision record for this appeal, the national interest in the proposed project does not outweigh its adverse coastal effects, when considered separately or collectively.”

In a last-minute argument Broadwater officials also contended that the project is necessary in the interest of national security. The Commerce Department then elicited comments from the federal departments of defense, homeland security, justice transportation, state and energy, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and others.

“None of these federal agencies raised any national defense or other national security concerns,” Locke wrote. “New York’s objection to the project is therefore sustained.”

Broadwater officials have a few choices left to them. They may challenge the appeal now upheld by the federal government in federal court, they may modify the project, or they may walk away. Blumenthal has said he would fight Broadwater all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

If past history is any guide, Broadwater will be back.They have the resources to keep going. Rep Reed said “we need to keep up our guard just in case. The project is environmentally dangerous and economically irrational. Given plummeting natural gas prices and increasing domestic gas supplies, you cannot make any kind of case for this hideously expensive LNG barge experiment.”


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Posted by: MJM | April 13, 2009 7:57 PM

Great job again Marcia just love reading your articles and keeping us up to date. MJM

Posted by: robn | April 14, 2009 1:09 PM

Forget about terrorists trying to blow up the facility...the true terrorism would have been environmental enflicted by the owners. Broadwater's location conveniently hides toxic byproducts (underwater), which wouldn't be discovered until it was too late and the Sound was poisened. Thanks to CT Fund for the Environment who did so much work to fight this.

Posted by: robn | April 15, 2009 8:43 AM

case in point...the despoiling of the Irish coastline.


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