Editorial: Saying No to Broadwater
Here is our position on Broadwater, the quarter-mile-long floating energy barge in Long Island Sound that could supply New York and Connecticut with a billion cubic feet of natural gas a day — provided it wins regulatory approval, is built as planned and doesn’t get blown up by terrorists or sunk by market forces:
It is not necessarily the most obvious call. But the benefit that Broadwater promises — convenient satisfaction of the region’s ravening energy appetite — is overcome by more pressing long-range concerns, like finally curbing the addiction to fossil fuels and preventing another industrial incursion into Long Island Sound.
Despite having been instantly and nearly unanimously condemned by public officials and environmentalists on both sides of the Sound, Broadwater has passed several tests since it was introduced in 2004. It is now up to New York State to determine whether the project meets environmental standards under the Coastal Zone Management Act and the Clean Water Act.
New York regulators and Gov. David Paterson may be the last hope for scuttling the project, although officials in Connecticut have promised federal lawsuits, too, if that is what it takes. The battle will certainly go on for a while. Anti-Broadwater activists have expressed serious doubts about whether the federal review of environmental impact was thorough enough. They have also raised credible doubts that the market will even support this huge commitment to new infrastructure.
Long Island Sound could probably survive the addition of a permanent industrial barge the length of four football fields, and fishing boats and pleasure boaters could probably learn to cope with gas tankers, and everyone could probably live with the remote possibility of a big gas explosion in the Sound. But it’s not worth the accumulation of these insults to the Sound and its stressed ecosystem. Natural gas is cleaner than oil or coal but still a globe-warming fossil fuel.
One crucial caveat remains: By steadfastly opposing this project over the gas industry’s insistence that the region needs it, Broadwater’s critics are committing themselves to bearing the cost of the cleaner, greener way. This means a serious commitment to energy conservation and serious investments in wind and solar power, and in retooling existing power plants for efficiency and cleanliness.