Gov. Chris Christie yesterday pulled the plug on a controversial project to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility 16 miles off the New Jersey coast.
In a press release issued by his office, the governor announced that he had invoked his authority under the federal Deepwater Port Act, vetoing a proposed LNG operation off Asbury Park. The action prevents Liberty Natural Gas from building and operating its proposed offshore port to receive foreign vessels transporting LNG to the U.S.
"I take very seriously our obligation to protect the environmental health of our coastal waters," Christie said. "Offshore LNG poses unacceptable risks to the state's residents, natural resources, economy and security."
The action was not unexpected, since Christie had opposed the project during his gubernatorial campaign. The project is one of several LNG facilities that have been proposed off the New Jersey coast, but all were submitted before the discovery of new natural gas supplies in Pennsylvania and New York, which some analysts say make the project less feasible. All contenders except Liberty Natural Gas had withdrawn their projects since the discovery.
In a letter to the administrator of the federal Maritime Administration, Christie noted that the state has invested much time and energy in encouraging renewable energy, and warned the project could stifle investment in those technologies. At least four developers have proposed building offshore wind farms off the coast of New Jersey, and just yesterday the federal government designated a swath of coastal waters as potential Wind Energy Areas. Cheaper fossil fuels might make it difficult to develop more expensive wind and solar projects.
The deepwater port approximately 16 miles off the coast of Asbury Park, where the company proposes to re-gasify LNG for transport onshore, is only one piece of the proposed Liberty Natural Gas LLC Project. It would also entail the construction of a 9.2-mile onshore pipeline from Linden to Perth Amboy and a submerged pipeline running along the coastline.
Liberty Natural Gas executives said they were seeking clarification from federal officials as to what happens next. "It’s early in the process for a veto. We hope to have our day in court," said Roger Whelan, president of Liberty, adding he believes the company can successfully address many of the issues raised by the Governor in his letter.
The move was hailed by environmentalists who viewed the project and similar proposals as a first step toward the industrialization of the ocean.
David Pringle, campaign director for the New Jersey Environmental Federation, said the governor’s veto keeps New Jersey’s eye on the prize -- environmentally and economically -- by emphasizing renewable and energy efficiency. "While some may say this project was never going to happen, we’ve learned the hard way you take nothing for granted, especially given how much Liberty is spending on lawyers, lobbyists and engineers," he said.
Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action, called the veto a clean victory for the ocean. "It is our most treasured natural resource, and it will now be free from harmful industrialization," she said.