2009-02-13 / Front Page

Weiner: Don't Ignore Rockaway On LNG Proposal

By Howard Schwach

Congressman Anthony Weiner, who represents Rockaway in the House of Representatives, said this week that he was going to get involved in the question of whether or not a massive island housing a Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) terminal should be built less than 20 miles off the peninsula's beachfront.

The Google Earth map shows the precise location of the proposed LNG island terminal off the shores of Rockaway and Nassau County. The Google Earth map shows the precise location of the proposed LNG island terminal off the shores of Rockaway and Nassau County. "This is too important an issue to permit only hearings to the east and west of Rockaway," Weiner told The Wave on Wednesday. "If we are going to make an informed decision, we need to hear from the federal agencies and the Atlantic Sea Island Group [the proposed developer of the terminal]. I will use my seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee to ensure that New York City residents are not ignored in this process."

The proposal for the LNG terminal was revealed last week at a hearing held in neighboring Long Beach.

Some environmentalists in Rockaway believe that the proposal was written in such a way that New York City would have no input into the process, even though it will be built in 60 feet of water just 16.4 miles from the Far Rockaway shoreline and less than 20 miles from the western end of the peninsula.

The island terminal port is reportedly the first LNG terminal in the United

States that will be built on an island rather than on a floating platform.

Officials from Atlantic Sea Island say that the facility will be "barely visible from the beachfront."

The company's website says that the proposed terminal will be "constructed far from population centers, to serve as an LNG receiving, storage and regasification terminal [for tankers coming from foreign ports] that will supply the New York/Long Island and metropolitan region's ever-growing need for natural gas."

Officials of the Manhattan development group say that the facility will help to keep gas prices under control by increasing the flow of imported gas to utilities in the northeast region.

They add that they expect to have the new terminal facility online by the end of 2010, pending federal review by the United States Coast Guard and approval by federal officials.

The facility will be able to handle two LNG tankers at a time and would have four 180,000-cubic-meter tanks for LNG. Each day, company officials say, the terminal could receive and store a maximum of 2,000,000,000 cubic meters of LNG and then transmit that gas to energy companies in the northeastern United States.

Maps provided to residents attending the Long Beach meeting two weeks ago show that at least one of the pipelines that would connect the terminal with the mainland goes right through (or under) Rockaway and then under Jamaica Bay before terminating near John F. Kennedy Airport. Another connects with a tank farm in Long Beach, the community to the east of the Rockaway peninsula.

A number of local residents have expressed their opposition to the plan based on what it will do to the ocean ecology.

Broad Channel resident Dan Mundy, the president of the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers, thinks that the plan is a bad idea.

He told The Wave that his organization will be joining numerous environmental groups in condemning a plan to build an offshore island for the purpose of LNG transport to this area.

"This island would cause irrevocable harm to our ocean environment," Mundy said. "This would be undertaken by a company that has no prior experience in such a project. In addition to the harm it would do to local fish, crab and lobster population, there would be huge exclusion areas set up around it which would in effect make a large portion of our ocean waters off limits."

Mundy says that the huge supply tankers that are more than four football fields long offer a potential terrorist target because the LNG becomes explosive as it is offloaded and converted to gas. Military analysts have stated that terrorist acts could be harder to deter because such an area, off shore, would be hard to safeguard.

"This project is ill conceived and offers no benefits other than producing profits for the big oil companies. We have all worked long and hard to bring our ocean waters back to the point they are at today. The idea of creating a massive manmade island to process a highly flammable, dangerous, dirty product which would further increase our energy dependence on unfriendly foreign nations, all the while creating a potential terrorist target is a poor, if not ridiculous, one. We call on all of our elected officials to join us in condemning this project and fighting to prevent it," Mundy concluded.

The next step in the process is an environmental review process that must be held under the National Environmental Policy Act before the LNG terminal island can be built.

That review mandates one meeting in each state that is impacted by the new facility. That meeting, officials point out, has already been held in Long Beach.

The next step in the process if for the United States Coast Guard (USCG) to develop a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), which must take into account all of the factors that might impact coastal areas should the project be built.

The Coast Guard says that it is neither for nor against the plan.

"We have oversight and are tasked with insuring that the coastal and marine environment are protected," said Petty Officer Third Class Barbara Patton, a spokesperson for the service. "We don't get to set the rules, but we have to make sure that the laws set by Congress are followed."

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