Thursday, April 9, 2009

Hearing Set on Natural Gas Island Proposal

By Conor Greene

At the urging of Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn and Queens), the United States Coast Guard has agreed to hold a public hearing for city residents on a private company’s proposal to build a liquefied natural gas terminal 17 miles off the Rockaway coast.

The hearing is set for 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 19 at PS 114. Public meetings on the plan have already been held in Long Beach, NY and Eatontown, NJ, so Weiner called on the Coast Guard to go beyond the minimum requirements and ensure that city residents hear from the agencies firsthand.

The Atlantic Sea Island Group has applied for federal permits needed to build the island, which would be at least 60 acres at the surface and more than 110 acres at the ocean floor. Tankers from foreign nations would deliver the liquefied natural gas to the island, where it would be converted to natural gas and transported to consumers through a pipeline.

“This is too important an issue to permit only hearings to the east and west of Rockaway,” wrote Weiner in his letter to the Coast Guard. “If we are going to make an informed decision, my constituents need to hear the proposal details directly from the responsible federal agencies and the Atlantic Sea Island Group.”

The plan is being opposed by some residents and environmentalists who are worried about the impact the project could have on the surrounding area. Aside from the environmental implications, there is concern about the potential for a largescale accident or terrorist attack. “The bottom line is, at the end of the day nobody here benefits from this,” Dan Mundy, Jr. of the Jamaica Bay Eco Watchers told a crowd of nearly 200 residents at a meeting about the proposal last month. “It’s the first step in basically an industrialization of the ocean.”

The Atlantic Sea Island Group has never attempted this type of project in the past, something that further concerns residents. Currently, state governors have the ability to veto these projects, which is why similar proposals for off the California shore and for the Long Island Sound didn’t materialize.

According to people fighting this proposal, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine has supported LNG islands in his Energy Master Plan, but Gov. David Paterson has yet to take a position and still has the ability to nix the Safe Harbor Island proposal.

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