Upcoming Public Hearings on the proposed installation of an LNG terminal in Long Island Sound. [Commentary]

December 18, 2006

Those concerned about the proposal to tether a floating liquefied natural gas terminal the size of four football fields in Long Island Sound, 11 miles off the Connecticut coast, certainly have no reason to be reassured by what the environmental experts are saying.

As co-chair of the Long Island Sound LNG Task Force, I am certainly concerned. During an informational hearing recently held by the task force, several environmental experts characterized the 838-page draft environmental impact statement released by the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission as “sloppy”, “poorly researched”, and failing to substantiate its claims that environmental impacts would be “minimal.”

Considering that the FERC draft report was two years in the making – and that FERC is poised to act soon on the application to build this facility, along with a 22-mile gas-carrying pipeline – we have good reason to question just how serious FERC will be about ensuring the safety and environmental soundness of this project before taking action.

That is why the LNG Task Force is demanding that FERC extend the amount of time the public has to respond to this draft report to well beyond its normal 60-day rebuttal period. Considering the length, complexity and importance of this draft report, it is outrageous and irresponsible to give the public such a short time to respond.

Even more disconcerting is the perception that FERC seems determined to approve the installation of this LNG terminal in Long Island Sound despite the very real possibility of serious consequences to the Sound, and to Connecticut residents. I am far from reassured by FERC Chairman Joseph T. Kelliher’s recent letter assuring Governor M. Jodi Rell that Connecticut will have an “important role” in his agency’s review of the project when he at the same time is telling the media that FERC is legally powerless to give our state a formal role in the process. The fact is that Connecticut needs, and deserves, to have a formal role in making a decision that will affect our state, our citizens and our environment for generations to come. That FERC claims we can have an “important” – but not a “formal” – role ought to make everyone uneasy.

Having said that, I urge that everyone who can attend one of the two upcoming public hearings scheduled by FERC: January 9th at Mitchell College in New London and January 16th at Branford High School.

It is a fact that we need better, and more reliable, sources of energy. But, it is also true that Long Island Sound is only one of several sites under consideration for LNG terminals. The northeast does not need all of them, and at least some of these other sites may be better suited to this type of facility than Long Island Sound.

Long Island Sound occupies a unique ecological niche, as does the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Park. It seems unlikely to me that the federal government would agree to install this type of facility in either of these two places.

As co-chair of the Long Island Sound LNG Task Force, I can assure you that Connecticut’s state officials will not back down on our insistence that the best interests of our state, our environment, and our citizens is protected – regardless of what the big energy companies and the federal government apparently would like us to do.

Reliable energy is important – but so is the continued safety and well-being of our state.