Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Enviros hope to sink LNG tanker plan off NJ/NY coast

Two years ago, environmental organizations in New Jersey and New York torpedoed a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal proposed for coastal waters outside New York harbor. The kill shot was fired by New Jersey's then new governor, Chris Christie, who exercised the veto power provided under federal law to governors in states affected by such projects.

The company that brought the plan, Liberty Natural Gas, has risen from the depths with a revised application that's under consideration by the U.S. Maritime Commission.

The feds appear to be offering the company's Port Ambrose project a gift by setting only two pubic hearings on the proposal and scheduling both of them this week, following the long July 4 holiday weekend, when public attention is more focused on sunny beaches than coastal shipping.

Environmental activists, however, apparently never go on vacation. Clean Ocean Action, which led the fight in 2011, sounded the alarm and turned out a room-full of opponents last night at the first hearing held in Long Branch, NY. 

Tonight is New Jersey's turn. The concluding hearing will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 the New Jersey Convention and Expo Center in Edison. It will be preceded by an open house from  4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. 

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The port is planned for a site 17 miles off Jones Beach, N.Y., and 24 miles off Long Branch, N.J. Liquefied natural gas would be shipped to the site in vessels capable of converting it back into gas form. The gas would then be connected to an existing 22-mile long pipeline serving Long Island and New York City. 

Roger Whelan, Liberty's CEO, said in a statement that the proposal is similar to a terminal already operating near Boston. He said a similar plan is in the works near Tampa, Fla. He claimed the project will provide 600 jobs and inject $90 million into the regional economy.

While Liberty Natural Gas says the facility is intended to accept LNG from other countries, environmental opponents believe it eventually would be exploited by the gas industry as an export facility to ship relatively inexpensive U.S. Natural gas abroad.

This would be a boon to companies drilling for natural gas in Pennsylvania today and perhaps, in the future. in New York. It's also a big reason why many opponents, this time around, come from
the anti-fracking camp in Pennsylvania and New York.  

The irony underlying the controversy is that, while the liberal Democratic federal Obama administration appears to be greasing the path for the project, New Jersey's right-leaning Republican governor, often vilified by activist organizations like the Sierra Club, may be the environmental community's only hope of stopping it.

Public comments on the proposal (Docket number USCG-2013-0363) will be accepted online until July 23. For more information, visit

Related environmental news stories:
Hearing held on natural gas plan for NY-NJ coast
Company Tries Again To Bring Offshore LNG Port To NJ Coast

Liberty Natural Gas's 'Fact Sheet' on Port Ambrose Project
Clean Ocean Action's 'Fact Sheet' on Port Ambrose Project

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