Friday, December 08, 2006

Broadwater study slammed by Experts

From the New Haven Register. We should plan on attending the January 11th hearing in East Haven (info at end of article):

Experts slam feds Sound study
Gregory B. Hladky, Capitol Bureau Chief

-HARTFORD — A new federal study that found no major environmental problems with a proposed $700 million liquefied natural gas project in Long Island Sound drew scathing reviews Thursday from state experts.

Marine biologists and geologists who have studied the Sound for decades called the federal report "sloppy" and "poorly researched," warning that it fails to back up its claims that the massive Broadwater project wouldn’t cause major environmental damage.

"We can’t see how they reached their conclusions," said Peter Auster, an associate professor with the University of Connecticut’s National Undersea Research Center and Department of Marine Sciences.

Auster said the environmental impact study by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission "glosses over a number of issues ... to conclude there would be minimal impacts."

John Hritcko Jr., senior vice president for Broadwater, sharply disagreed with the estimates of the Connecticut project. "We believe (the FERC study) is a thoroughly researched and well-documented report," Hritcko said. He said the study took more than two years to compile.

Spokesmen for the Broadwater project have said the project is critical to providing Long Island and Connecticut with a new source of clean energy.

The project calls for a floating LNG facility the size of the Queen Mary II to be anchored about 9 miles off Long Island and 11 miles off Branford. A 22-mile pipeline would be laid to carry gas to Long Island or Connecticut. Broadwater officials hope to have the facility in operation by 2010.

Since the proposal would put the project in New York waters, Connecticut has been given no formal role in reviewing the plan.

The experts who testified before a Connecticut task force on the Broadwater project said they are concerned about what they see as the inadequacies of the FERC report.

Ralph Lewis, a retired state marine geologist, compared the FERC report to a research paper by "a reasonably bright undergraduate ... who probably went to the library the afternoon before the paper was due."

Lewis said the authors of the FERC study cited out-of-date references, failed to take advantage of the latest geological research on the Sound and discounted seismic activity as a hazard, even though Connecticut has one or two minor quakes every year.

Roman Zajac, professor of biology and environmental science at the University of New Haven, said the report included no detailed statistical analysis of its claims regarding organisms on the floor of the Sound.

"It’s in effect useless ... (for making) any kind of prediction" about how long it would take the marine ecology to recover from installation of the Broadwater facility and a 22-mile-long pipeline," Zajac said.

Lane Stewart, an associate professor in natural resources at the University of Connecticut and chairman of the state’s lobster restoration commission, said he is concerned that the FERC report failed to include any studies of the potential impact the project could have on the Sound’s water temperatures.

Heat discharged from the gas facility and the huge tankers that would bring liquefied natural gas to the plant could raise water temperature, he said. Stewart warned that could have major consequences for lobsters and fish species.

According to Stewart, current warm water temperatures in parts of the Sound already pose a danger to the lobster population.

The FERC report relied on information from a variety of federal and state agencies. Those included data from New York agencies, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Coast Guard, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and the Army Corps of Engineers.

Federal officials concluded that the project is the best and safest alternative for providing a new energy source for the region. Repeated efforts to locate LNG plants in communities along the New England shoreline have met with fierce local resistance.

Connecticut Environmental Protection Commissioner Gina McCarthy said her department "has repeatedly raised serious concerns" about the project but has been ignored by FERC. She said a major danger of the Broadwater project is that it will set a precedent for the industrial use of Long Island Sound.

The co-chairman of the Connecticut task force, state Sen. Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said FERC has set Jan. 23 as a deadline for comment on the environmental impact study.

The task force has scheduled a public hearing on the FERC Broadwater study for 7 p.m. Jan. 11 at East Haven High School.

Gregory B. Hladky can be contacted at or (860) 524-0719.


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