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Broadwater LNG Loses on Eye Appeal

April 20, 2009
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The U.S. Department of Commerce has ruled in favor of New York state's objection to the proposal by Broadwater Energy LLC to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving terminal in the middle of Long Island Sound, saying its adverse coastal impacts outweigh the national interest in an increased energy supply.

In a separate action the U.S. Coast Guard issued letters of recommendation saying the waterways serving eight LNG receiving terminals on the Gulf Coast are suitable for LNG tanker traffic.

The two actions pretty much summarize the fate of new LNG terminal projects in the last several years, which have gone forward at Gulf Coast sites but have mostly been blocked along the heavily populated U.S. Atlantic and Pacific coasts. The Commerce Department's decision agreed with New York state that the major objection to Broadwater's proposed floating LNG terminal and subsea pipeline nine miles from the Long Island shore and 10 miles off Connecticut was visual. It would be located "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."

The proposed structure, 1,215 feet long and 200 feet wide, with a deck that would rise 75 to 100 feet above the water line, would be 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. "The terminal would permanently alter the visual character of the Sound, creating a 'fixed zone of discordant industrial activity interrupting the Sound's vast, open maritime land and waterscapes,'" the Commerce Department decision said, quoting from the opposition from New York state.

The federal agency conceded that Broadwater LNG would not only increase the nation's energy supply, but also would make natural gas available to a supply-short region, thereby lowering prices. And while the decision found, as did the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) issued earlier by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, that the impact on aquatic life, the seabed, safety, the commercial fishing and lobster industries, and endangered species, with mediation, would be minimal, in the aggregate they tipped the balance against the controversial project (see NGI, March 24, 2008).

Following FERC's approval of the project, New York objected under the Coastal Zone Management Act, asserting that the proposal was inconsistent with the Long Island Sound Coastal Management Plan. Broadwater appealed the State's objection to the Department of Commerce on June 6, 2008.

In another federal action relating to LNG, the Coast Guard last Friday issued letters of recommendation for eight LNG facilities located throughout the Gulf Coast, some of which are under construction or are additions to terminals already in operation.

The letters indicate that the waterways associated with Calhoun LNG, at Point Comfort, TX; Freeport LNG Phase II, Freeport, TX; Golden Pass LNG, Sabine Pass, TX; Port Arthur LNG, Port Arthur, TX; Creole Trail LNG, Cameron, LA; Sabine Pass LNG Phase II, Cameron Parish, LA; Casotte Landing LNG, Pascagoula, MS; and Gulf LNG Clean Energy, Pascagoula, MS, "are suitable for the expected vessel traffic at those facilities." A Coast Guard spokesman said they were confident that "good security and safety" could be provided for the LNG tankers.

The Coast Guard made its suitability recommendations based on reviews focused on navigational safety, maritime security risks and the measures needed to responsibly manage those risks. During the review, the agency consulted a variety of stakeholders, including multiple federal agencies, state governments, municipalities, recreational boaters, first responders, emergency service providers, port authorities, local waterways pilots and user groups, local safety committees and the general public.

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