Right now, a concrete conflict between clean power and dirty power is playing out in the coastal waters off Long Island's South Shore. At public hearings on November 2nd and 3rd, New Yorkers will be weighing in on whether a developer of offshore liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities, Liberty Natural Gas, should be allowed to build an offshore LNG terminal, called the Port Ambrose project, in the same area proposed for an offshore wind power project. For NRDC, the answer is clear: When there's a conflict between clean energy and dirty fossil fuels, clean energy should always prevail. Not only would the offshore wind power project eventually generate enough clean electricity to power 125,000 homes, and create more than 2,000 good jobs, it would improve grid reliability in the overstressed New York-Long Island area, because offshore wind power projects generate the most electricity when we need it most: on cold winter days and hot summer afternoons.
Fortunately, under the governing federal law, the State of New York has the power to veto the Port Ambrose project. New York should use that power to reject the Port Ambrose project because it would foreclose forward movement on what is likely to be New York's first offshore wind power project. (For more on why these two projects aren't compatible uses, click here.) Further, the Port Ambrose project would make meeting New York's ambitious climate goals and its forward-looking clean energy plans all that much more difficult to accomplish. New Jersey also has veto power over the project, and should use that power too.
Let's get into some details:
1) Long before the LNG terminal was proposed for this site, the Long Island-New York City Offshore Wind Project, a collaboration among three New York utilities--Con Edison, the New York Power Authority and LIPA/PSEG Long Island--began planning and advocating for an offshore wind project there. Several private developers have also expressed interest in building offshore wind projects in this area. And New York City has announced plans to get 100 percent of its municipal power from local renewable power sources, creating even more demand for offshore wind. Constructing a single, 250-megawatt offshore wind power project off Long Island's South Shore could create more than 2,800 full-time jobs and add $645 million to the local economy, according to a study by researchers at SUNY Stonybrook. The Long Island-New York City Offshore Wind Project would likely start off with 350 megawatts and could, eventually, double in size. With a full build-out of New York's offshore wind power potential, the possibilities are even bigger.
The approval process for offshore wind power in this section of the New York Bight is already moving ahead, with the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the agency responsible for offshore renewable energy programs, collecting proposals for development and also information for an environmental assessment and review of the area that will ultimately lead to an auction for rights to build an offshore wind project. Just last week, BOEM head Abby Hopper declared that moving forward with offshore wind in New York was BOEM's "No. 1 priority at the moment. All systems go."
The Port Ambrose project should not be allowed to trump that orderly process.
2) There's no case to be made that the Port Ambrose project is necessary to meet New York's energy needs. The very concept of building an LNG import facility is out-dated U.S. energy policy. These days, the United States has a natural gas glut.
We should be focusing instead on scaling up energy efficiency programs and renewable energy options, including pollution-free offshore wind power, that can more easily, quickly, safely and affordably meet our power needs.
3) As residents of Long Island and the rest of New York know only too well from our experiences of Hurricane Sandy, now is not the time to increase our dependence on dirty fossil fuels that will further disturb our climate, especially when alternatives like energy efficiency and renewable energy are readily available.
Failure to veto the Port Ambrose project would be out of keeping with New York's forward-looking climate agenda and the state's ambitious Reforming the Energy Vision plan to make New York's electric grid cleaner, more affordable and reliable.
New York shouldn't allow an LNG terminal that we don't need to stop progress on clean energy that we do. We hope that New York State will use its power to veto the Port Ambrose project.