In a decision environmentalists and politicians termed a deathblow to Broadwater, the U.S. Department of Commerce Monday upheld New York's rejection of a plan to build a massive, floating natural-gas plant in Long Island Sound.
Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell said Monday's decision delivered "a decisive verdict" in a long-fought bipartisan battle against the $700 million terminal.
"The national interests served by Broadwater do not outweigh the adverse impact it would have on coastal waters," Rell said. "The ruling means we can turn our attention to regional and national energy policies that will meet our needs for power without devastating treasured natural resources."
Broadwater Energy, however, can appeal Monday's decision in federal court, though company officials said they haven't made any decisions. Broadwater's developers have warned that without the terminal, households and businesses in Connecticut could see electricity and natural gas prices climb.
John Hritcko, senior vice president and regional project director for Broadwater Energy, a consortium of Shell Oil and TransCanada Pipeline, said in a statement that the company was disappointed with Monday's ruling.
"We will review the specifics of the ruling before making a decision on our next steps," Hritcko said.
But Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal called any appeals by Broadwater "futile," saying the federal government used a "very powerful and persuasive" 37-page decision to strike down Broadwater's arguments for permits for the project.
In April 2008, New York denied Broadwater Energy permits, saying their plan to build a 1,215-foot-long, 200-foot-wide liquefied natural gas processing plant was inconsistent with its coastal management plan.
New York and Connecticut elected officials have opposed the project, a sentiment shared around the country where proposals for liquefied natural gas terminals have been challenged on environmental and safety grounds. Liquefied natural gas advocates say they have an excellent safety record.
Blumenthal said Monday's decision may have actually "saved Broadwater from a dismal economic fate." Of the 55 liquefied natural gas proposals nationwide, only six have been built and "most are now idle" because the recent economic downturn has reduced the market for natural gas, he said.
Opponents of Broadwater's plan argue that New York, Connecticut and the federal government have spent millions of dollars over the past two decades improving the health of Long Island Sound. They say creation of the gas plant -- proposed to be moored to a tower in the Sound nearly 11 miles off Branford -- would threaten that progress.
Creation of the plant also would have privatized major portions of the Sound, cutting off large areas that would be needed for security zones, said Roger Reynolds, a lawyer with the Connecticut Fund for the Environment. Reynolds said Monday's ruling keeps Long Island Sound in the public's hands.
"That's at the heart of all of this, making sure Long Island Sound is for the public use," Reynolds said.
Copyright (c) 2009, The Hartford Courant, Conn. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.