N.Y. governor says no to Broadwater

Two energy companies’ bid to construct a liquefied-natural-gas terminal in the Long Island Sound effectively died Thursday as New York Gov. David Paterson announced he would not back the project because it violates a state environmental regulation.

At a press conference held on the shore of the Sound, Paterson said the project, which “did not pass the test” for a environmentally stable Long Island Sound, violates New York’s Coastal Zone Management Act. Paterson’s ruling, which came two days before the deadline set for New York by the federal government, follows a decision three weeks ago by the Federal Energy Regulation Committee to allow the terminal to go forward.

The announcement came as a relief to many Connecticut officials, who for months were only able to air their opposition from the sidelines. Since the terminal is by law in New York waters — it just 9 miles away from Wading River, N.Y., while 10 miles from New Haven — the Empire State had jurisdiction over the final decision.

Paterson said he is committed to finding a new source of energy for the region — Broadwater would have provided oil to both New York and Connecticut at prices lower than they currently are — but he was convinced that the terminal was not the right option.

“Shame on us if we can’t develop a responsible energy policy without sacrificing one of our greatest natural and economic resources,” the governor said.

In addition to the project’s potential economic and environmental implications, Paterson expressed concern over allowing a private firm to manage such a large area of the Sound. He said there are several alternative sources of energy the state could tap.

Before Wednesday evening — when Paterson first indicated he would oppose the terminal — it was unclear where the governor would come down on Broadwater, largely because in less than a month in office he has made no indication of his position. Into the void stepped several Connecticut officials eager to thwart Shell Oil and TransCanada Corporation’s effort to construct the terminal.

In just the past week, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 threatened legal action against Broadwater if necessary and Sens. Chris Dodd and Joe Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67 introduced federal legislation revoking FERC’s authority to determine the sites for liquefied-natural-gas terminals.

Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell, who has said she supports such legislation, held her own press conference Thursday to applaud Paterson’s announcement.

“Anyone who has ever stood on these shores and looked out over these beautiful waters understands that this is no place for a giant industrial barge,” she said in a press release issued before the conference. “This is no place for a floating terrorist target.”

But supporters of the Broadwater project still have hopes, though slim, that the plan can survive. Shell Oil and the TransCanada Corporation can challenge Paterson’s decision by appealing to the U.S. Commerce Department, which has the power to overrule New York’s decision.

Jerry Kremer, advisory board chairman of the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance, said Paterson and Connecticut officials are overlooking the economic necessity of finding a new source of oil in the area.

“Ultimately, we hope Broadwater will be approved because this would benefit both businesses and consumers by supplying much needed power to help address the shortages in Long Island and the downstate region,” he said in a press release.

Broadwater’s presence in the Sound would save residents around $680 million per year in payments for gas and electric bills, according to the project’s Web site.

Still, Adrienne Esposito, who serves as executive director of Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment, one of several grassroots organizations to lobby aggressively against Broadwater, said in a press release yesterday that Paterson’s decision prioritizes more than economics — it is a reflection of the public’s concern, she said.

“[It was] a result of the tens of thousands of citizens coming together with one unified voice for the protection of LI Sound and working tirelessly to ensure the Sound’s integrity is preserved for future generations,” she said in the press release.

FERC has approved 22 other liquefied-natural-gas terminals.

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