2009-04-10 / Front Page

USCG On Hand For April 19 LNG Meeting

By Howard Schwach

Officials from the United States Coast Guard and perhaps from the Atlantic Sea Island company will be on hand in Rockaway for a meeting that will address residents' concerns about a proposed Liquefied Natural Gas terminal that is planned for a sea island fifteen miles off the peninsula's shoreline.

The meeting will be held at PS 114, Beach 135 Street and Cronston Avenue in Belle Harbor, on Sunday, April 19 at 2 p.m.

Congressman Anthony Weiner, who attended a meeting in Rockaway in late March, fulfilled his promise to the more than 200 residents who packed that meeting and unanimously said "no" to the planned LNG terminal, by bringing the Coast Guard to Rockaway.

"This is too important an issue for hearings to be held both east and west of Rockaway, but not on the peninsula," Weiner told the residents at that meeting.

The Coast Guard is the federal agency tasked with studying the proposal and with publishing an environmental impact statement that would effectively kill the plan or give it the green light to proceed.

A Coast Guard spokesperson told The Wave in February, when the proposal first came to light, that it is neither in favor nor opposed to the plan.

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

New York State Governor David Paterson has veto power over the project, but has yet to make a public statement.

The governors of both Florida and California have already vetoed similar projects off their shorelines, however.

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."

The facility will be able to handle two LNG tankers at a time and would have four 180,000-cubic-meter tanks for LNG.

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 at the March 24 meeting.

"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."

Cynthia Zipf, the executive director of a New Jersey advocacy group called Clean Ocean Action, pointed 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?"

The federal law mandates that Atlantic Sea Island group make a presentation once in each state impacted by the proposal.

Officials have already presented the planned island in both Long Beach and in New Jersey, so they have no obligation to come to Rockaway for the coming meeting, Weiner says. They have, however, been invited and asked to voluntarily present their plan to the Rockaway community.

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