2010-04-30 / Front Page

Did Jersey Gov Kill LNG Island?

By Howard Schwach
The fate of the proposed Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Island off the coast of Rockaway has come down to whether or not the man-made island is off the coast of New Jersey as well as off the coast of New York.

A Google Map of the site for the projected LNG terminal shows that the manmade island will be roughly equally-distant from both Rockaway and New Jersey. A Google Map of the site for the projected LNG terminal shows that the manmade island will be roughly equally-distant from both Rockaway and New Jersey. That is because New Jersey Governor Chris Christie effectively vetoed all LNG facilities off the coast of his state in an Earth Day speech on the Jersey shore.

“The future of our shore, the future of our children to enjoy our beaches in the same way that I got to enjoy them is more important than any project involving Liquefied Natural Gas,” Christie said. “That’s why I am confident in announcing that decision on Earth Day and it is a decision that I will stand by every day that I am Governor of the State of New Jersey.”

An artist’s rendering of proposed LNG plant off the coast of Rockaway. An artist’s rendering of proposed LNG plant off the coast of Rockaway. Under the federal Deepwater Port Act, the governor of an adjacent coastal state has significant veto power over an LNG project, making it clear that either Christie or New York State Governor David Paterson could veto the plan.

Congressman Anthony Weiner, who has hosted a number of Rockaway meetings concerning the proposed LNG terminal off our shores, issued a statement calling the LNG Island plan “Dead on Arrival.”

“Governor Christie has signaled his opposition to this plan. Since this means the plan is effectively dead, let’s not waste our time – pull the plug now,” Weiner said. “There is no need to squander resources reviewing a proposal that is now dead on arrival.”

A spokesperson for the Atlantic Sea Island Group, the company seeking to build the island said, however, that the company plans to move ahead with the proposal.

“[Governor Christie] wasn’t speaking about us,” the spokesperson said. “He is not opposed to our project because it is off the coast of Long Island, not New Jersey.”

Gary Lewi, the local spokesperson for the group told The Wave on Tuesday that his client wanted to present all the relevant documents to both state governors in order to convince them of the viability of the proposal.

“This has been an exhaustive study, costing the company millions of dollars and many years of work,” Lewi said. “As long as people turn on their furnaces, they will need LNG. The need is still there.”

He said that the Coast Guard has released its environmental impact study to the two governors and hopes that it will convince them to give the sea island the go-ahead for development.

And, while Christie has made his position on LNG clear, Paterson’s office did not return repeated telephone calls from The Wave asking for his position on the proposed LNG plant.

While Paterson opposed the Broadwater plan for an LNG facility in the Long Island Sound, he has been silent on similar plants off the south shore of Long Island, experts say.

Cindy Zipf, the executive director of Clean Ocean Action, an environmental advocacy group in New Jersey, told The Wave on Tuesday that while she believes that Christie has the veto power over the Atlantic Sea Island Group project, she is not sure of the outcome.

“We do not know how this is all going to play out,” Zipf said. “We have to keep fighting all the projects off the shores of New York and New Jersey. The companies making these proposals have a lot at stake and will not give up easily.”

“Governor Christie’s outstanding support for our cause gives us more credibility and a great leverage over those who remain neutral or silent, or who are waiting for the [Coast Guard’s] environmental impact study,” she said.

“There is no public interest in any of these projects,” she concluded.

The United States Coast Guard is expected to deliver its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) in the next few weeks, according to an agency spokesperson.

Prescott added that when the study is made public, the agency would set up public meetings in impacted communities to get feedback on the plan.

“No decision will be made,” Prescott said, “until after a final EIS is published and final public hearings are held in New York and New Jersey, the two adjacent coastal states.

The planned sea island is about nine times the size of Giants Stadium. It would 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 would 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 companies in the northeast region.

A number of locals remain opposed to the plan.

“This community really has a fear of this project,” says Jonathan Gaska, the district manager for Community Board 14. “It does not serve any purpose for [Rockaway] or for the city.”

Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer wonders why Paterson has not added his veto to Christie’s.

“We thought it would be good if our governor took the initiative and said ‘no’ right away,” she said.

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