New York Governor Pulls Plug on Port Ambrose LNG Natural-Gas Terminal

Tom Johnson | November 13, 2015 | Energy & Environment
Cuomo moves first to scuttle project, although Christie also had opportunity to veto plans to build a deepwater port off coasts of NJ and NY

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo yesterday effectively killed a controversial proposal to build a liquefied natural-gas terminal off the coasts of Sandy Hook and Long Beach, NY.

By vetoing the $600 million proposal by Liberty Natural Gas to develop an LNG import facility 28 miles off Sandy Hook and 18 miles off Long Island, the Democratic governor handed a huge victory to environmentalists, fishermen, and others who fought the proposal over the past seven years.

The project, designed to supply natural gas to customers in New York City and Long Island, is one of several LNG facilities proposed off the Jersey coast in recent years — all of which stirred enormous opposition and none of which have moved forward.

The proposal is a modified version of a project off Asbury Park vetoed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in 2011. Christie vowed to oppose any future LNG projects but despite calls from opponents had not acted on the latest proposal.

Dubbed Port Ambrose, the project would have involved construction of a deepwater port where huge tankers would deliver LNG from Trinidad and Tobago to the terminal. The fuel would have been converted to natural gas and then shipped ashore in a subsea pipeline.

In blocking the project, Cuomo echoed many of the arguments made by foes of the Port Ambrose terminal: security threats posed by an LNG facility in the region’s waters; its location in an area where offshore wind farms have been proposed; and the risk of harming what he termed an “international gem’’ — Long Island beaches.

Cuomo also cited the increasing frequency of extreme storms, such as Hurricane Sandy. The project must now be rejected by the U.S. Maritime Administration, which must abide by the Governor’s veto under law.

In a statement, Liberty Natural Gas CEO Roger Whelan expressed disappointment in the veto. “We had hoped the safety and environmental concerns raised by the Governor this afternoon had been thoroughly addressed by the Environmental Impact Statement.’’

Christie, previously very vocal in his opposition to the project, had no comment yesterday on Cuomo’s action. Christie’s press office declined to respond to questions about the veto, deferring to the governor’s previous comments on the issue.

Some critics suggested Cuomo’s move takes Christie off the hook to veto the Liberty Natural Gas proposal once again, a decision they say he might not have wanted to make in the middle of a run for the Republican presidential nomination.

Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club and a persistent critic of the governor called Christie’s silence deafening. “He’s holding our coasts hostage to his national political ambitions,’’ he said.

Christie also should veto the project, said Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action. The veto would signal a bistate and bipartisan victory and a warning to fossil fuels to stay away,’’ she said.

Many critics had argued that the Liberty project is unnecessary because there is plenty of natural gas available, largely because of exploitation of vast new deposits of the fuel in the Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania.

Some environmentalists and clean-energy advocates worry that the region’s increasing reliance on natural gas will undermine efforts to combat global climate change. They say methane leaks from natural-gas pipelines release a highly potent greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.