Older New Yorkers may recall the tragic explosion of a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) tank on Staten Island in 1973 that left 40 workers dead.
Younger New Yorkers like me might face similar threats from a proposed LNG terminal 19 miles off New York’s shores.
The proposed project, known as Port Ambrose, would allow Empire-State- Building-sized tankers to connect to an underwater terminal located outside the mouth of the New York/New Jersey Harbor. The tankers would transport LNG, which is created by chilling natural gas until it turns into a liquid at minus 260 F.
An Environmental Impact Statement released last week by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Maritime Administration outlines the impacts from Port Ambrose, which include 22 miles of dredged seafloor, negative impacts to marine life, and air, water, light, and noise pollution. Of course this list doesn’t include any impacts that would occur if something went wrong like it did in 1973—in that case the impacts could be exponential.
The possible endangerment of human lives and the environmental impacts to our ocean and coastal environment are enough reason for New Yorkers to give this project a pass, but what’s more intriguing is what New Yorkers will gain from this project. Let me sum it up for you: Not Much.
Proponents of Port Ambrose highlight hearty job creation and a reduction in energy costs, but that’s an overstatement. According to documents provided by Port Ambrose’s parent company, Liberty Gas, only six permanent jobs will result from this project.
True, fuel costs could go down if the terminal is used for import (as proposed by Liberty), but if it is used for export— as all economic and industry signals point to—fuel costs for New Yorkers would go up as energy is sold to foreign countries.
And if something does go wrong like it did on Staten Island, New Yorkers could stand to lose a lot. Our beach and ocean economy is worth about $20 billion per year alone. The Surfrider Foundation recently completed a study showing that when the millions of annual beachgoers visit our shores they spend an average of $56 per person. Not to mention the impacts to New York City tourism—can you imagine the reaction from the rest of the world to this New York Times headline? Possible Terrorist Attack in New York Harbor as Gas Terminal Explodes!
And why do New Yorkers want to lock ourselves into rigid fossil fuel infrastructure for decades to come when new energy sources like wind and solar are becoming price competitive? Two LNG import terminals almost identical to Port Ambrose were constructed in 2008 offshore of Boston, only to sit idle since 2010 because of a glut of American-made natural gas.
Moreover, there is a competing proposal to build a wind energy farm in the exact same location as Port Ambrose. New Yorkers are at a clear crossroads, where they can choose between potentially dangerous and impractical LNG, and safe and clean wind energy.
The Port Ambrose project is a bad deal for New Yorkers. We get a few permanent jobs in exchange for decades of potential human and ecological disaster. We should learn from our mistakes and choose new technologies that are safer and better for future generations. Do you know what happens when a wind energy turbine malfunctions? It stops spinning.
Tell Governor Cuomo this project is wrong for New York. Call him at 518-474-8390 or send a message at http://www.actnow.surfrider.org/surfrider/app/writealetter?0&engagementId=62048
Nikita Scott is a volunteer with the NYC Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation