About 100 local residents and environmental activists attended a public hearing in a Belle Harbor public school recently to protest plans to build a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal on artificial island in nearby coastal waters.
The hearing, called by Congressmember Anthony Weiner, a member of House Energy and Commerce Committee, brought representatives of the United States Coast Guard and the Maritime Administration for the first time to hear from city residents about the project.
The proposal, to build a 60-acre island from dredged-up material, which would be able to harbor two super LNG tankers as well as tugboats and gas-handling facilities, is the brain child of Atlantic Sea Island Group, a company formed for the venture.
The location is just over the horizon, 18 miles from the Rockaways – about 13 miles south of Long Beach, Long Island and 19 miles east of Highlands, NJ.
Situated in 60 to 70 feet of water, the proposed island with its buffers and pipelines would sit roughly in the middle of the Cholera Bank, an area that is highly-productive for both commercial and recreational fishing.
The area got its name over a century ago when ships loaded with immigrants were forced to anchor there under quarantine if cholera was found among their passengers.
According to federal law, only one hearing is required in each affected state during the “scoping,” or public-comment period. Hearings were held in Long Beach and Eatontown, NJ in late January.
Atlantic Sea Island Group had initially tried to block New Jersey hearings on the planned deepwater port island project, called Safe Harbor Energy, but was rebuffed
Weiner made good on his promise “that New York City residents are not ignored in this process,” by organizing the meeting.
It was unclear whether the “scoping” process, which had been extended from February 11 to March 11, was expired, or whether Washington would continue to receive comments before moving on to environmental studies, now that the Rockaway public has had its say.
Public comments ranged from outright rejections of the proposal, such as “We say ‘No’ – take it to Alaska,” to concerns the facility will be unable to stand up to the Atlantic’s legendary storms.
Weiner declared that “there are still a host of unanswered questions” about safety and environmental impact, but pledged to “keep an open mind” about the project. “We have never in the history of the United States had anything proposed like this,” Weiner said.
New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has already determined that the proposed port and sub-sea pipeline may result in significant adverse environmental impacts and that compliance with state law requires preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
Because of the many similarities in requirements, the U.S. Coast Guard and Maritime Administration have agreed to cooperate with DEC to prepare a single document that satisfies both federal and state law.