Friday, January 11, 2008


From Times/Review Newspapers

By Denise Civiletti

Broadwater’s plan to build and operate a liquefied natural gas terminal in L.I. Sound cleared a major hurdle today.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued its Final Environmental Impact Statement on Broadwater’s controversial plan, concluding that, with recommended mitigation measures in place, the project “would result in limited adverse environmental impacts.”

FERC staff determined that the proposed location in central L.I. Sound, approximately nine miles north of Wading River, would be the “least environmentally damaging alternative that would still meet the purpose and need of the project.”

Now the five-member commission will determine whether to grant Broadwater Energy’s permit application as a project that is “consistent with the public interest,” according to the FEIS.

“We welcome the issuance of the FEIS,” said Broadwater senior vice president John Hritcko in a written statement. “The attention to details by the federal and state agencies involved is clearly evident and we will be reviewing the findings and conclusions over the coming days,” Mr. Hritcko said. “We are pleased that this stage of the regulatory review is complete and, in the coming months, look forward to the Commissioners’ decision on Broadwater’s proposal.

The next major hurdle for the project is obtaining a determination from the N.Y. state department that the project is consistent with the state’s coastal zone management policy. The state department had postponed its ruling until the FEIS was issued by FERC. By law, the state had six months from the issuance of the DEIS to make its consistency determination. But Broadwater Energy agreed to several extensions of the deadline, to allow the state agency the opportunity to review the FEIS before making its own decision. The current extension agreement expires Feb. 12.

Stephen Resler, deputy bureau chief of the resources management bureau in the state department’s division of coastal resources, said today the DOS plans to issue its consistency determination on or before the current deadline.

Governor Eliot Spitzer has not said publicly whether his administration would support the Broadwater application.

“This is exactly what we expected FERC to do, it’s not a surprise,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, and a leader in the opposition to Broadwater’s plans. “This is why all eyes are on Gov. Spitzer. We need our governor to stand up for the environment. We didn’t expect FERC to. We do expect Gov. Spitzer to,” she said.

Broadwater Energy LLC seeks to build a 1,200-foot-long liquefied natural gas terminal in the middle of L.I. Sound, approximately nine miles north of Herod’s Point, Wading River and 11 miles south of the Connecticut shore. The facility, resembling a large vessel, would be the first of its kind in the world. It would be permanently moored offshore and would connect with the existing Iroquois pipeline via a new 30-inch, 22-mile subsea pipeline. The terminal would have a capacity of eight billion cubic feet of LNG, and would take delivery from LNG tankers at the rate of two to three tankers per week, according to the Broadwater EIS. The LNG, which is shipped in a liquid state at minus 260 degrees Farenheit, would be heated at the terminal to return it to a gaseous state.

In addition to the FERC permit and the consistency ruling from the N.Y. state department, Broadwater needs to obtain other permits and approvals from various state and federal agencies. Among them are an air quality permit from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, a DEC wastewater discharge permit, a letter of recommendation from the U.S. Coast Guard Captain of the Port of Long Island Sound concerning the suitability of the Sound for the proposed project, and the agreement of N.Y. state to lease the underwater land on which the facility would be moored to a 7,000 square foot tower structure, as well as the land in which the new pipeline will be laid.

Broadwater’s construction timeline would have the new plant put in service in late December 2010.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

GAO report finds tankers are vulernable

Tankers vulnerable to attacks
GAO report cites Coast Guard overload
from The Suffolk Times, Jan. 10, 2008

By Denise Civiletti

International tankers transporting liquefied natural gas, oil and other hazardous commodities are "threatened and vulnerable" to terrorist attacks and the U.S. Coast Guard lacks the resources to protect these vessels in international and U.S. waters, according to a report made public by the U.S. Government Accountability Office Wednesday.

The Coast Guard is having difficulty meeting its current "security workload," according to the GAO, and security demands on the Coast Guard will grow significantly over the next decade as more LNG import facilities come on line, the report said. By 2015, the amount of LNG imported into the U.S. will grow more than 400 percent. A total of 32 new LNG import facilities have been either proposed or approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or the Maritime Administration as of March 2007, according to the report.

The report says the Coast Guard at some ports, due to a lack of resources, has been unable to meet its own requirements for security activities such as escorts and boardings. The Coast Guard faces additional challenges in the future at some domestic ports, where workload demands are likely to rise substantially as new LNG facilities come on line and LNG shipments increase. The report released to the public does not identify specific ports due to security concerns.

"The Coast Guard is scrambling to meet its expanded post-9/11 mission," Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) said in an interview Thursday. "When you layer in the burgeoning LNG industry, you can see the Coast Guard is stretched beyond its capabilities," Mr. Bishop said. The congressman, who serves on the Coast Guard subcommittee of the House Transportation Committee, said Coast Guard officials have told him they are "very concerned about their capacity to provide security for these additional [LNG] facilities." Mr. Bishop said there are now 42 new LNG applications "in various stages of development."

Indeed, in its September 2006 Waterways Suitability Report for the proposed Broadwater LNG facility, the Coast Guard concluded the Long Island Sound Coast Guard sector could not "effectively manage the potential risk to navigation safety and maritime security associated with the Broadwater Energy proposal" at its current levels of responsibilities and resources.

Mr. Bishop pointed out that the Coast Guard must sign off on any construction permit issued for a new LNG facility, like the proposed Broadwater terminal in Long Island Sound, and the Coast Guard would not do so unless it can secure the facility.

But the congressman called on the federal government to "stop the clock" on all new LNG applications. While LNG will undoubtedly become a more prominent part of our energy supply in the future, Mr. Bishop said, "we have to go about it in a sane and responsible way." He criticized the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for reviewing and approving applications "in the order in which they arrive rather than taking a more holistic approach."

The GAO conducted its study on maritime security because the country's energy needs rely heavily on ship-based imports and that reliance will continue to grow as more LNG import facilities are approved and constructed. The global LNG fleet is expected to double from 200 in 2006 to more than 400 by 2010.

"This supply chain is potentially vulnerable in many places here and abroad, as borne out by several successful overseas attacks on ships and facilities," the report said. The ships bringing crude oil and LNG to U.S. ports are mostly foreign-flagged vessels, and the U.S. has limited oversight authority over these vessels' crews or condition, until they enter U.S. waters, at which point the Coast Guard bears primary responsibility of protecting them from attack with security boardings, escorts and patrols.

During transit into and out of port, these vessels travel slowly, which increases their exposure, the GAO report said. Tankers follow timetables that are easy to track in advance and they follow a fixed set of maritime routes.

In 2003 through 2005, according to the Coast Guard, there was an annual average of about 80 foreign-flagged deep draft vessels (ships of 800 feet or more in length) carrying liquid petroleum products or coal to port facilities within Long Island Sound.

If the Broadwater offshore terminal is built, it will take delivery from an estimated two or three LNG tankers each week, according to the project's draft environmental impact statement, adding between 104 and 156 vessel arrivals in the Sound per year.

A terrorist attack on any tanker carrying oil, gasoline or LNG would likely cause a spill, fire and, in the case of oil or gasoline, an explosion.

Local fire and police departments would be an integral part of the emergency response team in the event of an attack, according to the GAO report, but most local emergency response agencies lack the specialized equipment and training needed to handle the fires, explosions and spills that would most likely result from a terrorist attack, the report says. Another equipment concern, according to the GAO, is communication equipment used by law enforcement and emergency response personnel that isn't "interoperable." Interoperable communications systems "allow emergency responders to talk to each other to effectively coordinate their efforts," according to the report. The GAO found lack of fully interoperable communications systems among law enforcement agencies and emergency responders continued at ports visited by GAO staff in conducting their study.

The GAO report recommends more planning and more funding to complete plans and purchase necessary equipment.

Mr. Bishop said the federal government is in the "very beginning stages" of a $25 billion multiyear effort to upgrade the Coast Guard's fleet and equipment. Called "Deepwater," the project in its early stages has been "an embarrassment," Mr. Bishop said. A failed attempt to retrofit eight 110-foot cutters to add 13 feet in length rendered the vessels "completely unseaworthy," the congressman said. "Now they are on the scrap heap, being cannibalized for parts."

Super Tuesday. Then what?

Presidential primary elections have begun. And, by golly, they will soon be over.

By the end of next month, most of the primaries will be history — only 13 primary elections and caucuses will remain. In contrast, in 2004, 49 primaries and caucuses were scheduled after March 1.

It is likely that "Super Tuesday" — Feb. 5, when voters in 23 states, including New York, will go to the polls or caucuses — will effectively determine the nominees of the Democratic and Republican parties.

The pace of this year's presidential primary season is dizzying. Why are we in such a hurry? All right, maybe everyone is as anxious as I am for a new administration in Washington. Look at the president's approval ratings. But that isn't really what shifted the primary process into turbo-drive. The Democratic National Committee in 2006 allowed the change to give minority voters a voice early in the process, since the two traditionally early contests — in New Hampshire and Iowa — took place in very white states. A laudable goal, no doubt. But states rushed to push up their primaries so as not to become "irrelevant." Only 15 states didn't move up their primary dates.

The result of this compression: the campaign may well be over on Feb. 5.

Then what? What will the candidates do until the conventions (Aug. 25-28 for the Dems and Sept. 1-4 for the GOP)? What will we, the voters, do? After a smattering of contests in March and May, there's one primary on June 3, in South Dakota. These will be all but meaningless in the scheme of things, as far as Democrats and Republicans are concerned. Then... there's no activity until the end of August.

Will notoriously apathetic Americans completely lose interest during a long, lazy summer — especially after being burned out by the longest pre-primary campaign in history. "Voter fatigue" is a new buzz-phrase thanks to the 2008 presidential race — which started in 2006.

Will the anointed candidates lose momentum over the summer? Will one of the two "major party" nominees make a terrible blunder? And what if he — or she — does? Can delegates pledged to a candidate bolt from his or her camp? These possibilities could make for much drama at the conventions — something we haven't seen in decades.

Maybe the Democratic and Republican parties, by front-loading the primary elections this way, have unwittingly set the stage for an independent candidate to capture the hearts and minds of Americans who are sick and tired of the status quo in Washington and who don't see any of the "major party" candidates as anything but more of the same, more or less. Tuesday's "record high" turnouts in New Hampshire — more than 500,000 people — topped 50 percent of registered voters. It may have even approached 60 percent. It's sad that a 50-percent-plus turnout is something to get excited about. But it is. As a nation we are disillusioned with our government and political process. And we should be.

Maybe the long stretch of "major party" inactivity between March and November is the perfect opportunity for an independent candidate to become the next president of the United States. When they moved their primary dates up, most states didn't do the same with their filing deadlines for the November ballot.

It's ironic that the compressed primary season was triggered by the stated desire to give minority voters a greater say in the presidential primary process, and a black man ends up being the favorite to win the primary in one of the traditionally early, very white, primary states, New Hampshire.

It's doubly ironic that a woman won an "upset" victory over the black candidate in the very white state thanks to her "Muskie moment" on the campaign trail the other day. Television pundits were crediting Hillary's surge at the polls Tuesday to voters' favorable reaction to her show of emotion. Go figure. I guess people felt reassured to learn Hillary really is human. She never cracked during the Lewinsky scandal. Her stoic front made her seem cold and emotionless. When I first met the senator on a North Fork visit a couple of years ago, I was most impressed — and surprised — by her personal warmth. She's not the icy you-know-what she may seem to be. But then again, neither am I.

Ms. Civiletti invites you to join a discussion of this topic at Her e-mail address is