2009-03-27 / Front Page

Unanimous No Vote On LNG Island

Weiner To Set Meeting With Developers, USCG
By Howard Schwach

More than 200 people who attended an informational meeting at PS 225 on Tuesday night voted unanimously that they opposed a plan to place a man-made island housing a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal just miles from the Rockaway shoreline.

More than 200 people attended a meeting at PS 225 on Tuesday night to address a proposal that would place a massive sea island LNG terminal off Rockaway's shoreline.
The planned sea island, about nine times the size of Giants Stadium, will be funded by a Manhattan company called Atlantic Sea Island Group. It will be built in 60 feet of water using clean fill and other environmentally friendly materials, its proponents say.

It 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 evergrowing need for natural gas."

Congressman Anthony Weiner said that he will host a Rockaway meeting so that locals can hear from an "unbiased source" about the proposal.
The facility will be able to handle two LNG tankers at a time and would have four 180,000-cubic-meter storage tanks for LNG. Each day, company officials say, the terminal could provide up to 2,000,000,000 cubic feet of gas and then transmit that gas to companies in the northeast region.

While the company points to the facility's importance in maintaining an affordable supply of natural gas, its detractors, many of whom were at Tuesday night's meeting, point to the problems it might bring to the coastline.

Cynthia Zipf, the executive director for the New Jersey environmental advocacy group Clean Ocean Action, addressed the crowd with a powerpoint presentation that convinced the majority of the audience that the proposed LNG terminal was not a good idea.

Dan Mundy (left) and his son, spoke for the local environmental group, the EcoWatchers.
There was nobody present at the meeting to present the company's side of the story, however.

Dan Mundy, the president of the Eco- Watchers organization, a local environmental advocacy group and one of the meeting's sponsors, said that the company was not invited to make a presentation.

"They didn't invite us to their meeting [two months ago in Long Beach], so we didn't invite them to ours," Mundy said.

Joe Hartigan, a spokesperson for the Rockaway Park Homeowners and Residents Association, the other sponsor of the meeting, told another story.

"I called Gahagan & Bryant (GBA), the engineering firm that made the presentation, and invited Timothy Donegan, the man who was at the Long Beach meeting, but he never got back to me," Hartigan told The Wave on Wednesday morning. "They were welcome to make a presentation if they wanted to."

Federal law, however, mandates that the company make one presentation in each state impacted by the project, and that presentation was made in Long Beach.

Cynthia Zipf, the executive director of Clean Ocean Action, makes her presentation.
At the meeting, Congressman Anthony Weiner, who is on the House energy committee, said that he will set a meeting in Rockaway sometime in the next month that will bring together representatives of both the developers and the U.S. Coast Guard, the agency that has to complete an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) for the project, so that locals will have a chance to hear the company's presentation and ask questions.

Dan Mundy Jr., a diver and fisherman who often utilizes the ocean area planned for the sea island, outlined the community's opposition to the plan.

"They tried to slip this one under the radar," Mundy said. "The ocean is much cleaner than it was just a few years ago. There is no sludge and we no longer see needles and other medical waste. There had been a great improvement and now they want to pollute it all over again."

Mundy pointed to several things about the planned LNG island that would be detrimental to Rockaway.

"They would use fill to make the island, and who knows where it will come from. It might even be toxic fill from the [New York City] harbor entrance that the Corps of Engineers wants to get rid of. The exclusion area around the island would keep away divers and fishermen. There is a threat of terrorist attack, and how will the island stand up to hurricanes and other storms?"

"There is no precedent for this kind of project," he added. "We are the guinea pigs."

Zipf used her powerpoint presentation to point out that the LNG that will come from foreign nations to the sea island is neither needed nor wanted.

"The plan is to move to clean, renewable and affordable sources of energy," Zipf said. "LNG is antithetical to every one of those goals."

"This proposal is not in the public interest, and it certainly is not in your interest," she added. "We have a 120-year supply right here in the United Sates at this time, and 84 percent of the gas we use comes from this country. Why do we need the LNG from other nations such as Russia and Iran?"

In a front page article two weeks ago, the New York Times said, "The first globalized natural gas glut in history is driving a drastic collapse in the cost of gas that cooks food, heats homes and runs factories in the United States and many other countries. Six giant plants capable of cooling and liquefying natural gas for export are due to come on line this year just as the economies of the Asian and European countries that import the most gas to run their industries are slowing."

Zipf says that New York State Governor David Paterson has veto power over the plan. She pointed out that governors in both Florida and California have recently vetoed similar projects off their shores.

Newly-elected City Councilman Eric Ulrich pledged to fight the proposal in the council.

Congressman Anthony Weiner told the meeting, however, that he was going to reserve judgment until after he heard all of the facts.

"We still don't know all the facts, because we have not had hearings nor heard from the Coast Guard," Weiner said. "Until we do, nobody is in a position to say that this is a good plan or that it is not."

He added that there are both environmental and financial questions that had to be answered that he "wants to hear from an unbiased source" before he makes a personal decision.

The Coast Guard, he continued, would hold a Rockaway hearing on a Sunday within the month, so that everybody can understand the proposal and what it means to Rockaway.

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