Friday, December 08, 2006

Four Connecticut Scientists Tell State Panel that FERC Glossed Over Broadwater's Environmental Impacts

Four Connecticut scientists provided the first substantive critique (that I’ve heard of anyway) of FERC’s review of the environmental impacts that Broadwater would have, and in a nutshell they say the study is seriously flawed.

Even scientists can be biased of course but I’ve always listened closely when Ralph Lewis and Lance Stewart had something to say. Yesterday they and two others told the Connecticut task force that is looking into the Broadwater liquefied natural gas issue that the FERC environmental impact statement was poorly researched, reflects a lack of understanding of the Long Island Sound, draws unwarranted conclusions, and is so shallow as to be elementary.

Lewis (retired state geologist) and Stewart (associate professor at UConn's Department of Natural Resources and a commissioner for the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Council) were joined by Peter Auster (science director for UConn’s National Undersea Research Center) and Roman Zajac (University of New Haven biology professor). Judy Benson of the New London Day seems to have been the only reporter to cover the meeting.

Auster: “This document was poorly researched. The authors glossed over the issues to conclude that it would have minimal impact.”

Lewis, the state geologist, told the committee that the report does not reflect an understanding of the floor of the Sound. He said Broadwater may have to drill much deeper through layers of sediment and clay to reach bedrock than the report anticipates. The drilling would be needed to construct the yoke mooring system that would hold the terminal in place and the 22 miles of pipeline that would connect it to an existing undersea gas line.

Zajac faulted the report for relying on video footage of the portion of the Sound where the terminal would be located. The video footage is unclear and cannot be used to draw conclusions about the marine life throughout the Sound, because different areas of the Sound provide different habitats for different creatures….

He also faulted the report for lack of data to back up many of its statements, and for not addressing issues such as the effect noise from the terminal would have on fish and other creatures.

Stewart called the draft report “the most elementary I've ever seen.” He said he is most concerned about the heat that would be generated by the terminal, because subtle rises in water temperature can have negative impacts on fish, lobsters and other marine creatures. An analysis of that issue was absent from the FERC report, he said.

Public hearings on the EIS have been set for January: Tuesday, January 9th: Mitchell College, New London. Wednesday, January 10th: Smithtown West High School Auditorium (tentative). Thursday, January 11th: Wading River/Shoreham High School. Tuesday, January 16th: Branford High School.

11:15 a.m. update: It turns out that the New Haven Register covered the meeting too. I found the link through the Full Tilt Sailing Team blog, which was new to me until I saw it on Connecticut Weblogs.

12:30 p.m. update: Connecticut Network recorded the hearing. You can find it and watch it here, assuming you have the right software, which I apparently do not. Thanks to Leah Schmalz, who found it and send along the link.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Sam said...

I am a little confused about the net heat load from Broadwater. In theory the amount of heat used for re-gassification should be balanced, as a closed-loop heat exchanger. Adding too much heat such as from a steam boiler would be a waste of product. If anything, the net heat balance should be a slight cooling of the water, since the temperature at which natural turns from a liquid to a gas is way below 60 F.

However, there may be waste heat generated such and from the the large diesel engines, names the auxlilary engines on the platform and those of the unloading ship. Thus it appears that at least some raw seawater would be returned to the receiving waters somewhere between 85 and 165 degrees.

So my question is whether anybody took a look at the net effect of heat losses versus gains. /Sam

12:48 PM  
Anonymous Bryan said...

Sam,
I have the same confusion re: the heat issue. It's my understanding that the FSRU will require a SPDES permit and that the thermal content of the effluent will be regulated as well. For example, for our local power plant, the difference in temperature between the cooling water influent and effluent cannot exceed 10degF and the maximum effluent temperature cannot exceed 112degF.

According to the exec summary of the DEIS:
"Since some water discharges for the LNG carriers would be associated with cooling on-board machinery, water discharged from carriers berthed at the FSRU has been estimated to be an average of 3.6° F warmer than ambient conditions. Based on the open water location of the LNG carriers and the relatively small discharge volume, we anticipate that the discharges would satisfy the New York State water quality standards for thermal discharges into estuaries. In addition, carriers would be discharging at the FSRU approximately 26 percent of the time on an annual basis, and the discharges would not be continuous at the FSRU. As a result, the impacts to water quality would be minor but would occur for the life of the Project."

Broadwater is using a closed-loop vaporizer and is not using LIS water.

I also find it interesting that the scientists are focusing on the issue of disturbance of the seabed, presumably to make a case against the pipeline. That line of argument might work in CT, but I don't think it will work on LI, where many groups have come out in favor of an underwater gas line from CT to LI.

The points raised by the scientists didn't seem to have much substance, or at least the article didn't provide much substance in describing them. I'll wait to see what ends up being submitted for comment. They made some pretty damning comments. I hope they're able to back them up.

11:08 PM  

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