Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Face Facts: Broadwater's Environmental Impact Statement Needs to Be Done Over

Anyone who thinks the federal Energy Regulatory Commission is going to finish the environmental impact review of Broadwater’s liquefied natural gas proposal in three months or so, which is the official schedule, is fooling himself, and that includes the folks at Broadwater, Shell and TransCanada. Or to say it a different way, if FERC does finish the review in three months, I think a strong case can be made that it will have been severely derelict in its duty.

What other conclusion can one come to after reading the written submissions by responsible government agencies and scientists (click here and then enter "Broadwater" in the 'text search' box, near the bottom)? The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, and the Connecticut LNG Task Force all make compelling arguments that there’s simply not enough information, and the analysis is not rigorous enough, in the draft environmental impact statement, to decide whether the environmental impacts of the project outweigh the benefits. A supplemental impact statement is needed, without question. Here, for example, is what the National Marine Fisheries Service says:

NMFS notes the proposed safety zones that would be established around the FSRU [shorthand for the LNG terminal] and any tankers coming to deliver LNG would at least temporarily exclude traditional commercial and recreational uses of LIS. Commercial and recreational vessels would be prohibited from entering the permanent safety zone surrounding the FSRU and in the moving envelope surrounding approaching tankers. NMFS believes the safety zones are likely to displace commercial and recreational fishermen, particularly those operating in the eastern basin of LIS that rely on trawling or use of fixed gear. This displacement has the potential to create an economic and social hardship for a number of fishermen. While the eastern basin and its offshore approaches would not be subjected to the permanent closure contemplated around the FSRU, lobstermen and other fishermen effectively would have to cease operations and move away to avoid a safety zone whenever a LNG tanker approached. As indicated in the DEIS, LNG deliveries would occur on a very regular basis. This could disrupt some fishing operations to the point that they could no longer effectively tend their gear. The DEIS does not adequately assess the loss of access and economic impacts on commercial and recreational fisheries, particularly in the eastern basin and its approach. Similarly, the collateral losses that would accrue in both Connecticut and New York should recreational boating access become disrupted for the life of this project should be evaluated.

Keep in mind that the National Marine Fisheries Service is not composed of a bunch of crazy environmentalists. It’s a branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and when it says that legitimate commerce might be disrupted, it’s worth listening to, particularly because Broadwater seems to have abandoned its argument that the LNG terminal will have no environmental impact in favor of an argument that it’s worth proceeding with the project because it will save consumers money, namely $400 a year. See this New London Day story, for example.
But what kind of a tradeoff is that? The project will damage the Sound and it will damage a part of the Sound’s economy, but it will save us $400 a year.

Who is convinced by that?

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2 Comments:

Blogger Sam said...

I am a little mystified about the claim about Boradwater saving local natural gas users $400 per year. The logic stands that local distribution companies (LDC) such as Southern Connecticut Gas Company actually sell the gas to the end users, not the pipeline terminal company (Shell Canada or something). The LDC are known as the "city gate" and are usually regulated by state public utility commissions (PUC).

Southern Connecticut Gas Company mentions it gets natural gas from a variety of of over 12 sources, based on price and availability. It is quite a leap of faith to say that any LDC would lower its rates just because they feel good about one interstate pipeline supplier.

Here's what could happen. If the price of natural gas continues to fall, it won't be cost-effective to ship LNG from foreign boats on a 20 million dollar boat. Nope, what they owners want is long term-rates so they can ensure a steady supply of LNG instead of being at the mercy of the spot market.

The way I see it for these two scenarios, the spot market and long term contracts, is that the first will result in no savings at all and the second could cause natural gas prices to rise dramatically, or perhaps fuel surcharges on electric power to similarly rise.

I did not trust deregulation to lower my utility bills and I don't expect it from LNG, either. Consider the option that if long term contracts fail to materialize, the LNG shipments will simply stop.

Then you will have the most offensive thing even imagined, a huge "no entry" security zone with absolutely no natural gas being processed. If people figure that out it could be like the Boston Tea Party. BS on the $400.

9:16 PM  
Anonymous Bryan said...

Sam,
According to Broadwater, any savings or based on "future natural gas and electric prices", I suppose in much the same way that President Bush vowed to reduce gasoline consumption by 20%...based on future rates of consumption. Seems like smoke and mirrors.

What I hope is considered in everyone's calculations is the effect of the RGGI on natural gas prices and consumption. Has the fate of the so-called "Sooty Six" coal-fired power plants in CT been considered? Can we reduce demand enough through conservation to reduce consumption based on existing uses as well as things like repowering coal plants to natural gas? Same holds true for Indian Point nuclear. Can it be replaced without increasing overall gas consumption? The Synapse report makes very few references to existing coal-fired plants.

Living in TX, you would be the best person to comment on the effects of deregulation. I wouldn't trust it to lower my bills either, but I don't expect my utility bill to get any lower anyway. As long as energy costs remain high, be it from market forces or carbon caps/taxes, the future is brighter for alternative fuel sources.

If I put on my tin-foil hat, I can see OPEC et al. raising prices just enough to choke us, then dropping them suddenly and dramatically (for a limited time) to ward off any thought of investing in higher-priced alternatives. It's happening with cars already, with the recent lower gas prices.

12:22 PM  

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