Nearly 300 people packed The Allegria Hotel in Long Beach to sound off on a proposed natural gas terminal that would be anchored in the Atlantic 17 miles off Long Island.
Of the 39 people who had a chance to speak during the two-hour, lone public hearing scheduled for LI, 35 voiced opposition—mostly on environmental and security grounds. The four who spoke in favor included two union leaders and two union members touting the project’s potential for creating jobs.
“I find myself having fossil fuel déjà vu all over again,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Farmingdale-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment, recalling past similar proposals that were sunk.
Liberty Natural Gas is seeking a license for a deep-water fuel import facility—a ship anchored at sea called Port Ambrose that would be linked to a 22-mile pipeline connected to LI through Long Beach.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a similar proposal from the same company last year and former New York Gov. David Patterson vetoed an earlier idea dubbed Broadwater that would have been located in the Long Island Sound.
This time, Christie and Gov. Andrew Cuomo both have veto power over the proposal, which comes as New York continues a lengthy study into opening upstate up to the controversial natural gas drilling practice known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
The U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Maritime Administration doubled the 30-day comment period to 60 days ending Aug. 22, but critics maintain a pitch this complex requires 120 to allow enough time for the public to digest it.
“It’s striking the right balance to meet our energy needs,” said Roger Clayman, executive director of the Long Island Federation of Labor, who favored the jobs the project would create.
Roger Whelan, the chief executive officer of Liberty Natural Gas, said in a statement issued by a spokesman for the company, Mark Meissner with the Washington, D.C.-based firm Holland & Knight, that he appreciates the public input.
“We view the public meetings as a critical part of the review process and are grateful to everyone who took the time and effort to participate,” he said in the statement.
The meeting ended before about 30 people who had signed up to speak had their turn at the microphone. Another public hearing is scheduled for Wednesday evening in New Jersey.