Thursday, June 11, 2009

Groups Urge Governors to Block Gas Island Project

By Conor Greene

Members of community organizations along the Mid-Atlantic coast are urging the governors within the region, specifically David Paterson in New York and Jon Corzine in New Jersey, to prevent a private company from constructing an island off the Rockaway coast that would receive shipments of liquefied natural gas.

The Atlantic Sea Island Group has submitted an application to the federal government seeking permits needed to construct an island 13 miles offshore from Long Beach. While issuing permits for these types of projects falls under the jurisdiction of the federal Maritime Administration, governors of states bordering the project – in this case New York and New Jersey – have the authority to unilaterally reject it.

According to groups fighting this and other similar proposals, the five governors from New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia are convening to create a regional forum for coastal and ocean planning in the Mid-Atlantic region. This marks the first region in the nation “to commit to a regional approach to ocean management during President Obama’s administration.”

Word that the governors from each state will have open lines of communication regarding ocean planning was welcome news for Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action, a New Jersey-based group that has taken the lead on fighting the Atlantic Sea Island Group’s plan and two other similar projects.

“At long last the Mid-Atlantic is stepping up and thinking about our shared marine waters. This ocean realm is one of the must unique in the country and deserves protection,” said Zipf. We, the people, have a plan ready, it’s called the Clean Ocean Zone – a law that will keep improving our clean ocean ecology and the thriving economies that depend on it and keep the polluters, such as LNG and oil drilling out. Just as other costal governors around the country have done, we expect Governors Paterson and Corzine to listen to the people and reject LNG proposals now.”

Locally, environmentalists expressed disappointment that LNG issues are not among the priorities for the five governors to address and warned that years of work to reclaim the ocean could be lost.

“We are happy to see the mid-Atlantic governors meeting but surprised that they haven’t put LNG at the top of their list,” said Chris Wade, chair of the NYC chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. “They say they want to collaborate on water quality, energy policy, climate change and conservation of marine habitat. But if they don’t act quickly and unanimously halt proposed LNG-port developments we’ll be losing tremendous ground on all of these issues.”

Michael O’Toole, secretary of the Rockaway Park Homeowners & Residents association, said his group is “strongly opposed to any LNG development” in the coastal waters. “We are particularly concerned about the environmental impact and the safety and security issue. Any facility of this type would be a prime terrorist target.”

According to the Atlantic Sea Island Group’s application, the project, dubbed the Safe Harbor Energy Island, would be at least 60 acres at the water surface and more than 110 acres at the ocean floor. It would require about 700,000 truckloads of fill to construct and would be about 14 times larger than Giants Stadium. Tankers from foreign nations would deliver the liquid natural gas, which would be converted into natural gas and distributed through pipelines.

In April, the Coast Guard held a public hearing on the proposal as part of the process of creating an Environmental Impact Statement that will be used to determine whether the permits should be issued. Gov. Paterson has yet to take a stance on the proposal.

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