Americans have recently been heartbroken by images of countless species in peril and the Gulf of Mexico tourism industry hanging in the balance. At the same time, New Yorkers are considering approving a 60-acre, man-made natural gas operation called Safe Harbor Energy 13 1/2 miles off the shore of Long Island and 23 miles outside the entrance to New York Harbor. We must sharply analyze the costs and benefits a liquefied natural gas project would bring to our society and environment.
The history of LNG is troubling. In 1944, 131 people were killed, 225 were injured and 680 were left homeless in Cleveland when LNG holding tanks released their contents into the streets and sewers and the vapor cloud ignited a fire that engulfed nearby residents and commercial establishments. One tanker could release an amount of LNG 20 times greater than the amount that incinerated 1 square mile of Cleveland in 1944.
A study conducted by the Pentagon suggests the energy content of a standard LNG tanker is equivalent to about 55 Hiroshima bombs. Another study, prepared for the city of Oxnard, Calif., found that an LNG explosion at a proposed offshore facility there could produce a fire cloud extending 30 miles inland.
Safe Harbor Energy proposes to link 12.8 miles of underground pipeline. Since 1965, there have been 41 explosions of natural gas pipelines in the United States. Eleven of those occurred in the last decade.
New York faces the added risk of an LNG disaster from acts of sabotage by terrorists to an LNG facility, tanker or pipeline.
LNG is not clean energy. Liquefying the gas requires an immense amount of energy and the tankers that transport LNG burn fossil fuels at levels that exceed power plant emissions. LNG is foreign gas, traveling great distances for consumption in the United States, perpetuating America’s dependency on foreign fossil fuels. Due to price volatility there is no guarantee LNG will actually lower energy costs for New Yorkers.
Concerns exist about LNG’s contribution to the global warming crisis. LNG is primarily methane which, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is a major contributor to the greenhouse effect, second only to carbon dioxide, and methane is about 21 times more powerful at warming the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.
Threats to our environment stretch beyond LNG’s contribution to climate change. This project has the potential to affect endangered and non-endangered species of fish, turtles, whales and other marine life through vessel collisions, interaction with project equipment, changes to the physical environment, acoustic disturbances, alteration of prey species distribution and abundance, increase in marine debris, fuel spills and changes in water quality.
Communities across the United States have rejected LNG in their neighborhoods. Before New Yorkers invite energy titans to bring billions of gallons of foreign LNG into our backyard, let us critically appraise what we will be putting at risk.
We can no longer subscribe to shortsighted thinking about energy. We must explore safer, environmentally friendly options like solar, geothermal and wind energy sources. Let us turn our attention and our efforts to develop renewable solutions to our energy turmoil.