N.Y. Officials Find Broadwater Application For Liquefied Natural Gas Plant Lacking
Published on 1/3/2008

Still awaiting the final version of a key federal report, the Broadwater Energy project has been told that its application with state-level environmental regulators is lacking in several key areas and that the project could have “significant adverse impacts” on Long Island Sound's fish and lobsters.

Broadwater, a partnership of Shell US Gas and Power and TransCanada Corp., applied in early 2006 to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for permission to locate a floating liquefied natural gas processing, storage and supply barge in New York state waters in the middle of Long Island Sound.

In November 2006, FERC released a draft environmental impact statement taking the position that the facility would have minimal impacts on the Sound, but the statement met with sharp rebuke from critics for what they called incomplete and faulty analysis.

The final statement, which would be the basis for FERC's decision about whether to approve the facility, had been expected three to four months after the draft.

On Wednesday, FERC spokeswoman Mary O'Driscoll said she could not estimate when the final report will be released. A Broadwater spokesman, Chris Senecal, said the company was hopeful the FERC report would be released within the next two weeks.

While the project stalls pending the FERC report, Broadwater last week received a letter from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation listing several problems with its application.

Yancey Roy, spokesman for the New York DEC, said the 11-page letter, despite its specific criticisms of the project and the information provided by Broadwater, is not an indication that the application will be approved or denied.

“It's not a thumbs up or a thumbs down,” he said. Notices to permit applicants of application deficiencies are a normal part of the process, he said.

John Hritcko, senior vice president of Broadwater, also characterized the DEC letter as “typical” of the permit process. It identifies the issues that must be addressed before the application can progress, he said.

One of the groups leading the opposition to Broadwater, however, said in a statement that the DEC letter was a “good omen” moving “one step closer to squashing Broadwater.”

“The letter was fairly scathing of the Broadwater project with regards not only to the environmental impact but it indicates that Broadwater has been displaying corporate arrogance by disregarding New York State's repeated requests for accurate information,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of The Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

In its letter, the DEC said:

•The analysis of the air quality impact of the Broadwater project lacks details and fails to address several requirements it had been told to address. The project as currently proposed will exceed standards for sulfur dioxide and particulate matter emissions, and could not receive an air quality permit.

•The trench for the undersea pipeline that would connect the LNG facility to main natural gas pipelines supplying New York and Connecticut should be backfilled, not left open as the project proposes, to avoid harm to marine life. The pipeline would also harm the movement of lobsters and increase water temperatures to a level that could be harmful or fatal to lobsters in the summer.

•Design changes would be needed to avoid the entrainment and destruction of 274 million fish eggs and larvae annually that would become trapped as the LNG facility draws in and discharges 28.2 million gallons of seawater daily. Even with design changes suggested, at least 210 million fish eggs and larvae along with adult fish would die. Broadwater, DEC said, must seek alternatives to eliminate or minimized this impact.

•Alternatives to the Broadwater project must be explored more thoroughly.

In addition to FERC permits, Broadwater also needs approvals from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the New York environmental agency and other New York regulators for the project to go forward.

j.benson at theday dot com