NRDC To Feds: Deny Permit for Port Ambrose LNG Project. Promote Clean Energy Instead.

Offshore wind NYPA lease area map.jpg

For NRDC, the choices can't be clearer or the stakes higher--when there's a conflict between clean energy and fossil fuels, clean energy should always prevail. That's the drama that is playing out right now off the south shore of Long Island. There, Liberty Natural Gas, a developer, wants to site a proposed offshore, liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal, in the same area as a proposed offshore wind project that has the potential to supply our area with clean wind power. NRDC, like other stakeholders, elected officials and ordinary citizens, submitted comments yesterday and were joined by Riverkeeper and Sierra Club in opposing the LNG terminal. We urge the two federal agencies charged with approving the project permit--the U.S. Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration (MARAD) and the U.S. Coast Guard--to deny the Port Ambrose LNG terminal once and for all. Moreover, New York State and New Jersey should use their authority to veto the project, should the two federal agencies approve it.

The federal government, New York State and New Jersey should reject the Port Ambrose project because the facility could prevent forward movement on what could be New York state's first offshore wind project. Instead, the United States, New York state and the region should be working together to build a clean energy future. In fact, it would be the height of irony--and a damaging energy policy--to privilege the construction of a fossil-fuel import facility over a much-needed and long-overdue renewable offshore wind facility that represents a cleaner, healthier future for our children and future generations of New Yorkers.

Here are three most important reasons to oppose the Port Ambrose project:

First, as I mentioned above, the LNG project conflicts with a pollution-free, offshore wind power project first proposed for the area in 2011 that is wending its way through the siting process and could help New York State get 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2050;

The Long Island-New York City Offshore Wind Project, proposed by three public and private New York-area utilities--the New York Power Authority (NYPA), the Long Island Power Authority, and Con Edison--would have the capacity to produce 350 megawatts of clean electricity for the overtaxed New York City/Long Island grid. (The project can eventually be expanded to 700 megawatts.) Because offshore wind projects generate the most power when the grid needs it most, on hot summer afternoons and during cold snaps like the ones we've had so many of this winter, this project can significantly improve grid reliability, and, at 350 megawatts, could provide enough electricity to power almost 125,000 homes. Plus, it has great economic development potential. According to a recent study by experts at SUNY Stonybrook, building a single, 250-megawatt offshore wind power project could create more than 2,800 full-time jobs and add $645 million to the local economy. With a full build-out of New York's offshore wind potential, the possibilities are even bigger.

Several private developers have also expressed interest in building offshore wind projects on this site. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the federal agency responsible for offshore renewable energy programs, has responded favorably to all this interest, collecting both proposals for development and information for an environmental assessment and review of the area that will ultimately result in an auction for leasing rights to build an offshore wind project.

Though Liberty Natural Gas has called the NYPA offshore wind project and the LNG terminal "compatible uses," they quite simply are not. Here's why: The proposed Port Ambrose project would fall directly inside NYPA's proposed offshore wind lease area. The LNG facility consists of two buoy systems which would receive natural gas from huge LNG vessels and send the gas to land via a pipeline. The LNG carriers would deliver an average of 400 million standard cubic feet of natural gas per day. The Port Ambrose facilities are estimated to receive up to 45 deliveries annually, with deliveries taking between 5 and 16 days to complete. According to BOEM, it may be necessary to require a safety zone of almost a mile around the buoy system when the LNG carriers are delivering LNG, for the same reason that a significant buffer is recommended for the wind turbines--to avoid collision and navigational risk.

The proposed Port Ambrose LNG facility--and the exclusion zone for the two buoys and the LNG delivery vessels--would be located in the upper third of the NYPA lease site--just the area that is likely best suited for offshore wind turbine siting. Thus, the Port Ambrose facility would not only compete directly with the NYPA offshore wind project for lease space, it would do so in the prime area for offshore wind construction, making construction and operation of the offshore wind project substantially more difficult and expensive, and potentially threatening the viability of the entire project. As BOEM has stated in earlier comments: "the proposal to construct a LNG Port in the same area proposed for a large wind facility could result in serious conflicts--or at the minimum, complicating factors--that may impact the overall viability of one or both projects."

As this map indicates, the proposed Port Ambrose LNG terminal would conflict with an offshore wind power project proposed in 2011 and now moving through the siting process.

Second, there's no need for the Port Ambrose LNG project. As NRDC's comments explain, 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. Exports have displaced imports, with numerous export facilities proposed; many import facilities remain underutilized. Moreover, by scaling up energy efficiency programs and renewable energy options, including offshore wind and on-site, clean, distributed energy sources such as solar power, we can more easily, quickly and cheaply meet the peak load and power needs of New York and Long Island. That's the vision of New York's emerging Reforming Energy Vision policy, and Port Ambrose just doesn't fit in.

Finally, as residents of Long Island, New York and New Jersey know only too well from our experiences with Superstorm Sandy, now is not the time to increase our dependence on dirty fossil fuels that will further disturb our climate, especially when clean alternatives like energy efficiency and renewable energy are available. What the New York and Long Island area need now to help meet our energy needs is not more dangerous fossil fuels but the clean energy that offshore wind power, on-land wind, solar power, and energy efficiency can provide.

MARAD and the Coast Guard can only approve the Port Ambrose project if they determine that "the construction and operation of the deepwater [LNG project] will be in the national interest and consistent with national security and other national policy goals and objectives, including energy sufficiency and environmental quality." The Port Ambrose LNG facility most decidedly does not.