Friday, September 22, 2006

The Coast Guard Says Broadwater Is Unsafe. The Question Is, Can It Be Made Safe?

The Coast Guard has concluded that the Broadwater liquefied natural gas factory is unsafe and that, while the proposal can be changed so it becomes safer, doing so would require the participation not only of the Coast Guard but of state and local law enforcement, security and firefighting operations as well.

That’s the only summary I can come up with after reading Newsday’s account of the Coast Guard’s report on Broadwater. The report is to be released to the press and the public today but Newsday got a hold of a copy yesterday following a briefing for elected officials.

Broadwater is a joint venture of Shell and TransCanada, and is proposed for the middle of Long Island Sound, halfway between xx and Wading River. A floating factory, it would serve as a terminal for LNG tankers, would convert the liquefied gas into gaseous gas (how else to put it?), and then send it through underwater pipes (some of which are still to be built) to markets throughout the northeast.

But as proposed, the Coast Guard says, it puts an unacceptable risk on the Sound area. And for it to be made safe, the Coast Guard, as well as state and local law enforcement, security and firefighting operations, would have to participate and presumably expand and improve.

Before the LNG facility is approved, the report said, there should be

“additional measures to responsibly manage risks to navigation safety and security risks ... and reduce the potential consequences" in case of a large release of gas from the terminal or a tanker supplying it.

"The most probable security regime would consist of a mix of federal (including Coast Guard), state, and local law enforcement" that would somehow have to be paid for. It says also that, if the project wins approval, "existing marine firefighting capability in Long Island Sound is inadequate."


That of course raises the question of which state and local agencies would participate. As far as I know, the state police in New York and Connecticut, for example, have virtually no presence in the states’ marine waters. Is the Wading River volunteer fire department going to expand to take on LNG security detail, or the New Haven fire department? The answer to that is obvious.

Can it be made safe via other methods? Shell and TransCanada have too much invested not to try to meet the Coast Guard’s standards, or to meet the Coast Guard part of the way and then try to persuade them that it’s good enough. Presumably we’ll know more details later today and over the next few days.

Newsday, meanwhile, also covered the question of whether Shell is trying to buy influence with its donation to the Long Island Sound Futures Fund, here.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Bryan said...

Tom,

The pending USCG report is being spun as a strike against Broadwater. While I hope that is does turn out to be one or more nails in the coffin of the project, I'm having a hard time reconciling the optimism with reality.

Weavers Cove and Providence (KeySpan) are two LNG projects contemplated for Narragansett Bay. FERC approved Weavers Cove but put conditions on KeySpan that effectively killed the project (KeySpan is appealing FERC's decision). Weavers Cove has problems because of they anticipated a certain bridge would be demolished, but won't be, necessitating smaller ships but more frequent deliveries. In neither case did the USCG kill the projects, nor has the USCG stopped the operation of the Everett LNG terminal in Boston.

The Weavers Cove and KeySpan project pass under bridges and travel through narrow passages within the waters of Narragansett Bay. The terminals are shore-based and within a few miles of populated areas. If there were any circumstances for USCG to kill a project, I suspect it would be either of these two (or Everett).

These projects have also garnered significant local opposition, including municipalities and state agencies (e.g., the Attorneys General of RI and MA...where are you, Eliot Spitzer?). All of these projects will require cooperation by local first-responders and other agencies. I haven't heard where this cooperation will be withheld, but maybe it's too early yet. Maybe that's the key to Broadwater: withholding of cooperation a la the Shoreham and Indian Point nukes (but with limited effect in the case of Indian Point).

Re: the Shell grant, I expect it's a problem for many organizations when money is donated by companies and groups whose goals might conflict or at least appear to conflict with those of the receiving group. In the case of the group I'm associated with, we accept their funds, knowing that our efforts are not affected by the sources of the funds. All the same, we still swallow hard and wish we had the resources to do otherwise when we deposit the check.

I very much expect it's the same for FOB and CCE, although I don't know what their policies are or if they've accepted donations from corporations like Shell in the past. It would be good to hear that these groups haven't accepted contributions from ExxonMobil, KeySpan, LIPA, etc.

I realize that my comparison is somewhat apples to oranges because the receiver in the case of the Shell grant is a government agency. But I think if one looks at the amount of money (millions?) Shell has to lobby the government, I doubt that a few hundred thousand was intended to persuade a government agency. They have much more effective (and less obvious) ways to be persuasive. I suspect that Shell's grant was more intended to persuade the environmental community that Shell is a good corporate citizen. To Shell I say, "Good luck with that".

11:31 AM  

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