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The New York Times: The Coast Guard on Broadwater

EXTRACT: The project, a joint venture of Shell and the TransCanada Corporation, has already been charged, tried and convicted of being an industrial menace…
Published: September 24, 2006

It is fair to say that the local reaction to the giant floating natural gas depot that Broadwater Energy has proposed for Long Island Sound has been overwhelmingly negative.

The project, a joint venture of Shell and the TransCanada Corporation, has already been charged, tried and convicted of being an industrial menace by a chorus of politicians and environmentalists. This chorus has been notable for its size, loudness and strident harmony.

The assuredness with which the anti-Broadwater forces have been blasting away at this project is striking, given how much its potential benefits and drawbacks remain in the realm of the arguable and unsettled.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the agency that will decide whether Broadwater gets a license, has not issued a draft environmental impact statement yet, because the government has only just completed its official analysis of the safety and security issues Broadwater raises. The report was to be released on Friday by the Coast Guard, after more than a year of study.

The Coast Guard takes no side in the debate over whether Broadwater belongs in the Sound. It sticks to a specific, assigned task: to assess what danger it might pose to people and things, and how it will affect security and maritime operations in the Sound, which is both a precious natural resource and a heavily used commercial waterway.

As it turns out, the Coast Guard considers Broadwater an entirely manageable risk. Despite unnerving situations offered by critics who paint the floating gas depot as a sort of Shoreham-at-Sea, referring to the defunct nuclear plant, the Coast Guard report offers a more sanguine outlook. After listing three possible conclusions — that the Sound is entirely suitable for Broadwater as is, or wholly unsuitable, or suitable if certain precautions are taken — the Coast Guard chose option No. 3.

It acknowledges that things need to be done to make the project safer. There should, for example, be buffer zones around the platform and the tanker ships that fuel it, to keep other vessels away; waterborne firefighting capacity must be increased; and federal, state and local governments need to work with Broadwater to figure out how the safety measures will be put in place and paid for.

These hurdles, delineated by the Coast Guard, are real and need to be overcome. But they should not form the basis of a fear-based assault on the Broadwater project.

Many reasonable questions remain, including whether the gas Broadwater would supply will even be necessary in the future energy market, whether a sizable chunk of a public waterway should be closed for a private commercial enterprise and whether the terminal itself, as big as the biggest ocean liner and towering 80 feet above the water, will be an intolerable eyesore.

But while the anti-Broadwater forces can still call the project obnoxious, unsightly or unnecessary, the Coast Guard report suggests they will be stretching the truth if they continue to call it scary. and its sister non-profit websites,,,,,, and are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia feature.

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