Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What was on his mind? Not Broadwater!

While we were fretting over what Gov. Eliot Spitzer was thinking about the Shell/TransCanada plan to build a floating natural gas terminal in the middle of our estuary, Mr. Spitzer, it turns out, had other things on his mind.

Our busy governor was so busy it was hard for him to carve half an hour out of his schedule to meet with environmentalists about his Broadwater position. But he wasn’t too busy to find time to make complicated arrangements for the delivery of $4,000 or so in cash to his call-girl service.

It’s ironic that, on the very day Mr. Spitzer finally granted an audience to Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment — Feb. 11 — he was apparently quite preoccupied arranging his transaction with the Emperor’s Club for his “date” with a high-priced hooker two days later. He was on the phone with the “booking agent” that day, making arrangements for the delivery of cash the following day, to pay a prostitute’s fee for sex in a Washington, D.C., hotel room on Feb. 13, according to documents published on The New York Times Web site this week. Presumably he had to personally withdraw the cash from his bank that day, too. No wonder he was too busy to spend a lot of time with Ms. Esposito in Albany that day. She reported after her meeting, which lasted all of 20 minutes, that the governor didn’t do a lot of talking, which surprised her. Going into it, she said, she was concerned that he’d talk more than listen.

But was he listening or was he distracted with the other matters on his mind that day?
Did the governor seem preoccupied on the day of your meeting? I asked Ms. Esposito yesterday. She hadn’t thought about it, she said. In fact, she hadn’t made the connection between the timing of her meeting with the governor and his preparations to meet the prostitute called “Kristen” in a Washington, D.C., hotel room two days later.
What does all this mean for Broadwater, anyway?

I was told by a source inside the agency more than two months ago that the N.Y. State Department had already completed its consistency review of the Broadwater plan. I’ve been told the agency found the Broadwater natural gas terminal proposal inconsistent with the state’s adopted waterfront management policy. The DOS determination of inconsistency could be the death knell for Broadwater. So Shell and TransCanada put the full court press on Mr. Spitzer, meeting with him and apparently convincing him to agree to a 60-day extension of the consistency ruling deadline, to allow the energy companies time to woo public opinion and allow the governor enough wiggle room to reverse his agency’s decision. Mr. Spitzer, reeling from a tough first year in the governor’s mansion — what with the “troopergate” scandal and the driver’s license fiasco — was understandably reluctant to further irritate voters.
So much for that.

Now, it seems, all the energy and effort that’s gone into convincing Mr. Spitzer to do the right thing for L.I. Sound was probably for naught, as the state’s decision on Broadwater will probably be made during the Paterson administration. There is a chance, I suppose, that Mr. Spitzer could see to it that the DOS decision — up or down — is issued before his March 17 departure date. Incoming Gov. David Paterson, if he’s got any political sense, would want this one to hang on his predecessor’s head, don’t you think?

But assuming the Broadwater decision does not make Mr. Spitzer’s short list of to-do items to be tidied up in the next four days, the attention of everyone on both sides of the Broadwater controversy must now focus on Mr. Paterson, to whom most people have not paid very much attention before Monday.

Mr. Paterson, to his credit, has a strong interest in renewable energy, and lists among his priorities as lieutenant governor increasing the use of renewable energy in New York. That has to be a plus for Broadwater opponents.

On the other hand, the former State Senate minority leader is a NYC guy, with NYC political connections and interests. That will be a plus for Broadwater, which is seen by NYC officials as a needed source of new natural gas.

Around and around and around it goes. Where it stops, nobody knows.