Thursday, December 18, 2008

Broadwater fate out of Bush's hands

This is probably very good news if you're an opponent of Broadwater:

Broadwater fate is out of Bush's hands
Decision on appeal will be made by Obama administration
By Denise Civiletti
Times/Review Newspapers Corp.
Dec. 18, 2008

The fate of Broadwater's proposed floating natural gas terminal in Long Island Sound will not be decided by the Bush administration, after all.

A decision on Broadwater's appeal of New York's rejection of its plan has been postponed until at least mid-February. U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez on Dec. 10 issued a stay in the appeal proceedings that will keep the appeal record open until Feb. 13, effectively punting the decision to the incoming Obama administration.

“It's one more nail in the coffin,” Broadwater opponent Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “We're hoping the new administration is going to keep its promises of advancing renewables and relieve us of our dependence on foreign fossil fuels,” she said. “The market for LNG is not good right now anyway. Broadwater would have been a giant white elephant floating in Long Island Sound.”

Broadwater Energy senior vice president John Hritcko said the stay was “not unanticipated” because of the scope of the review. “There is a large record to consider,” Mr. Hritcko said.

The N.Y. secretary of state on April 10 ruled Broadwater's proposal inconsistent with the state's coastal management policy. That ruling would effectively block Broadwater's plans to moor a 1,200-foot-long floating natural gas terminal in the middle of L.I. Sound, about nine miles off the coast of Wading River — in spite of the fact that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the Broadwater application. That's because the federal Coastal Zone Management Act gives the state the last word on activities that impact coastal areas. But the federal law allows the federal commerce secretary to override the state's consistency ruling, and Broadwater appealed to the commerce secretary to do just that.

Mr. Gutierrez's decision to keep the record open for an additional 60 days — to collect additional information from various federal agencies — means it's likely that President-elect Barack Obama's pick for commerce secretary, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, will decide Broadwater's appeal.

Mr. Richardson served as energy secretary in the Clinton administration, from 1998 to 2001 and, as a candidate for president in the last campaign, declared he would be “the energy president.” In a key energy policy speech in May 2007, he pledged to lead “an energy revolution” as president, to wean the U.S. from foreign oil dependence and “free the U.S. from its status of international hostage of costly energy” by focusing on developing renewable energy sources. But in the same speech he also spoke of natural gas as a “relatively nonpolluting, plentiful, reliable energy source.”

Mr. Hritcko said the identity of the commerce secretary will not be the deciding factor in Broadwater's appeal.

“It's an administrative review by legal staff, based on the record, the merits of the arguments on both sides and legal precedent. It's a conclusion that's handed to the secretary by the staff. It's not a political decision,” he said. Mr. Hritcko noted that only two LNG appeals have ever been brought to the commerce secretary under the CZMA, and both were brought during the tenure of Secretary Gutierrez. The secretary upheld the state in one appeal and overrode the state in the other.

A spokesperson for the N.Y. state department was optimistic about the eventual outcome of the Broadwater appeal. “We've made our position vigorously to the Department of Commerce,” said Joel Barkin, deputy secretary for public affairs, in a telephone interview Wednesday. “We believe we made our decision properly and we are confident that ultimately we will be upheld.”

Copyright 2008 Times/Review Newspapers Corp.