Sam Wells, a marine biologist who grew up in Clinton, Connecticut, and now lives on South Padre Island, Texas, has written a short open letter to Governor Eliot Spitzer, explaining why he thinks the Broadwater LNG proposal should be rejected:
In addressing whether the proposed Broadwater LNG project should be approved by the State of New York, I would like to address one final point that perhaps you might have missed. Simply stated, for all the reams of paper, testimony, analysis, and comments, we really don’t know what the risks are from completing such a project. If the proposed terminal site was located in the open Atlantic Ocean where good transport and flushing occurs due to wind, tides, and current, it would be far easier to measure the risks. However, located in a partly closed embayment system, Long Island Sound, we won’t know the long-term impacts for many years.
Could Broadwater prove to be adverse from ecological, environmental, and cultural points of view? Would it contribute to eutrophication of Long Island Sound waters, such as increasing hypoxia? There is no computer model or risk assessment tool that can really tell you that. All we do know is that there does not seem to be any ecological, environmental, or cultural benefits from the project, other than to provide natural gas to consumers. Indeed, even the air quality impacts from the LNG ships and the terminal could be regionally significant, and possibly add to greenhouse gas emissions as well.
I suppose if the Broadwater owners had a binding agreement to offset and mitigate all the chief concerns, including a long term monitoring program, the project might pass the test. For example, if the project is expected to release “x” amount of greenhouse gasses a year, it would have to reduce that much elsewhere in New York. But that option does not appear to be on the table; one must accept or reject Broadwater as it is proposed in its current form. That documentation says that while there indeed are adverse impacts, they are within the realm of being insignificant and are within an acceptable level of risk. As a concerned scientist, I am always aware that there may be unexplained processes that are not so easily measured – for example scientists knew of warming in the Arctic but simply could not model the dramatic loss of sea ice. Did this mean that Climate Change was somehow invalidated? Not in the least. I would argue that Broadwater is simply not consistent with coastal zone plans for what is an already-threatened and nationally-recognized body of water, and that its operation will not improve on the situation one single iota. By virtue of tipping points and feedback loops, it could degrade it much faster than originally intended.