Thursday, April 3, 2008

New developments in NY's LNG barge saga

New York's new governor David A. Paterson hasn't had much time to weigh the pluses and minuses of the liquefied natural gas barge that TransCanada Corporation and Shell Oil are proposing to install in Long Island Sound, so the New York Times is trying to help him out.

In a March 31 editorial, the Times pleads:

"New York regulators and Gov. David Paterson may be the last hope for scuttling the project, although officials in Connecticut have promised federal lawsuits, too, if that is what it takes."

The newspaper duly notes that the project has passed several environmental reviews since it was introduced in 2004, but then goes on to dismiss it in this light-hearted fashion:

"Long Island Sound could probably survive the addition of a permanent industrial barge the length of four football fields, and fishing boats and pleasure boaters could probably learn to cope with gas tankers, and everyone could probably live with the remote possibility of a big gas explosion in the Sound. But it’s not worth the accumulation of these insults to the Sound and its stressed ecosystem. Natural gas is cleaner than oil or coal but still a globe-warming fossil fuel."

The editorial may have been the newspaper's official position, but it wasn't it's final word.

Today, just three days later, in the paper's "OUR TOWNS" section, writer Peter Applebome gave the project a few more kicks, noting that:

"political opposition to Broadwater has become something of a steamroller, with almost no visible support in Connecticut and only modest pockets on Long Island, including among some labor and business groups."

So, there's little left for the governor to do but to stick a big fork in the side of the 1,215-foot-long, 100-foot-tall energy barge. Right?

Well, not so quick. Applebome cautions that the project is "still very much alive." He provides four reasons.

"One is the bottomless pockets of its big-energy sponsors, TransCanada Corporation and Shell Oil. The second is support, overt and covert, in New York, where the City Council has backed the project as part of a long-term strategy to provide natural gas to the city. The third is a federal regulatory process that is extremely friendly to the energy industry; the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last month voted 5 to 0 in favor of the project. And fourth is the fact that one person matters in the regulatory process more than anyone else. That would be the governor of New York, who has enormous power to kill the project or keep it alive."

We suspect that Mr. Applebome has four reasons of his own for not declaring the project DOA.

#1 He likes a good drama as much as much as the rest of us and hopes to write at least one more story on the Broadwater saga.

#2 He wants to appear fair-minded, despite the fact that his piece does its best to blow the barge clear out of the Sound.

#3 When dealing with New York politicians, he's clearly learned to hedge his bets.

#4 He hasn't yet read his paper's March 31 editorial

For the latest news on why one of the "bottomless pockets" in the project is hanging tough, we turn to London where Thompson Financial News reported on Tuesday that:

"UK utility National Grid Plc says it will sell its 2,480 megawatt Ravenswood Generating Station in New York City to TransCanada Corporation for $2.9 billion. The disposal is a regulatory requirement associated with National Grid's acquisition last year of Keyspan."

The American financial press picked up the story and concentrated their focus on the cost of the acquisition. But Dan Durett, yesterday in his blog, made the connection between TransCanada's Ravenswood purchase and the Broadwater proposal, writing:

"TransCanada owns or has interests in the producers of approximately 7,700 megawatts of power generation. The company also owns generators in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont, according to its Web site. TransCanada, along with Shell US Gas and Power LLC, is also planning to build the Broadwater Energy liquefied natural gas terminal off Long Island Sound, which could bring the gas from Broadwater to Ravenswood and convert it to electrical power and sell it to the people of New York."

So a veil slowly parts, and the plot thickens. Stay tuned.

More: Pols: FERC's Broadwater Approval Is No Surprise
For Broadwater, All Eyes Are On Albany
NY and CN face off over LNG terminal

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