Energy an issue as states form ocean panel

June 12, 2009 at 5:20 pm Leave a comment

A new interstate compact to jointly manage offshore energy development and the ocean environment from New York to Virginia was inked Thursday in New York City, as activists gathered outside the meeting at Manhattan Community College to insist that the new Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean keep offshore drilling and liquid natural gas terminals out of its planning.
“We can’t be talking about protecting the ocean and allowing LNG,” said Cynthia Zipf of Clean Ocean Action, which joined the Surfrider Foundation, fishermen and community groups from State Island to Montauk who gathered at the signing
ceremony to lobby governors Jon S. Corzine and David Paterson.

In opening remarks, New York’s Paterson stressed the new council’s rule in planning for offshore energy development, particularly wind power, and cited the Long Island Power Authority’s plan for 350 megawatts of wind turbine power. He called opposition to offshore turbines on environmental grounds “ironic” because climate change linked to continued fossil fuel use is showing its earliest effects in the ocean.

“We’re already 30 years behind,” Paterson said. “We were warned about these problems and didn’t do anything about it.”

“The situation is evolving faster than our ability to deal with it,” warned actor Sam Waterston, a supporter of the nonprofit Oceana environmental group, who said a “crash of the oceans” can be a first effect of climate change, as increasing absorption of carbon dioxide makes the seas more acidic.

Increasing acidity harms calcium-dependent animals like corals and tiny crustaceans that whales and salmon feed on, and those species could be lost by mid-century if acidification rates continue, he said.

“Anything done to promote offshore wind (energy) … will be crucial in the biggest fight of all, the fight against ocean acidification,” Waterston said.

Tom Mahedy of Wall, an opponent of offshore liquified natural gas terminals, questioned the governors about their stance. “They were talking about renewables (energy) and a clean, healthy ocean, but how can they be in favor of LNG?” he
said later.

Corzine has supported offshore LNG facilities, and while Paterson opposed the now-defunct Broadwater LNG platform plan for Long Island Sound project, he has been silent on plans for offshore terminals, Zipf says.

New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia are parties to the new ocean council. Such regional initiatives were recommended by the Joint Ocean Commission, a Pew Foundation-funded national study group.

A former commission co-chairman, retired Adm. James D. Watkins, applauded the panel’s creation. “However, to be truly successful, the words on paper must be matched by a commitment of additional financial resources and people on the ground implementing the plan, including coordinated assistance from the federal level.”

“This should not be just another bureaucratic institution that doesn’t accomplish anything,” Corzine said. “Our economies and environmental well-being are absolutely at stake here.”

The states all share common issues, Corzine said.

“If there’s an oil spill off Virginia, it potentially impacts Cape May, New Jersey,” he said. “The fisheries questions that exist off the eastern seaboard are truly complex'” and need cooperative management efforts, he said.

The idea for a regional ocean council has been pushed by New York officials, who have been studying cooperative ventures on other U.S. littoral regions, Zipf said: “They’re really of the belief that’s what we need to do.”

Likewise, activists took a regional approach to showing their opposition to new gas terminals. Fishermen and homeowners came from as far as Montauk at the east end of Long Island, while groups from Monmouth County, Staten Island and the
Rockaways demonstrated against proposals close to New York Harbor.

Zipf said she preferred the governors hear more opinions than those of experts invited to speak at the afternoon seminar. “Early and often public participation is critical,” she said. “But we’re applauding the fact that the governors are taking this seriously.”

Three proposed liquefied natural gas offloading platforms near the harbor approaches, including one plan for a 110-acre artificial island, will “require vast no-fishing areas in some of the most important fishing grounds in the region,” said
James Lovgren of the Point Pleasant Fishermen’s Dock Cooperative in a statement. “The commercial fishing industry cannot afford to lose such productive fishing grounds and still survive.”

By Kirk Moore

Daily Record

Entry filed under: Dive In, Natural Waterfront, Region. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

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