Monday, April 14, 2008

Why Did Broadwater Lose?

In the Bush era when citizen protests go unheard in Washington, it is truly remarkable that the Broadwater LNG project failed. Federal regulators had, as usual, ignored citizen protests and ruled in favor of mega-business interests. But Broadwater lost locally and regionally. You only had to be at Sunken Meadow last week when Governor Patterson nixed the project to see that just about every state, county and local politician was there to support what they clearly saw as a popular decision.

News stories gave short shrift to the reasoning behind the decision, which was a finding by the New York Secretary of State that Broadwater was inconsistent with the state's coastal zone management plan. That finding said the project violated 6 state policies, including "sustainable use of living marine resources" and fostering a pattern of development in the Sound that "enhances community character" and "preserves open space," among other things.

Nevertheless, the decision was political, and proponents see the loss as another case of NIMBY-ism. John Hritcko, Jr., Broadwater VP, told me just before the decision last week that "with any energy infrastructure project--whether LNG, a pipeline or a windmill--you're going to have trouble siting it." And it's true that some of the local politicos as well as Adrienne Esposito, director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, spoke favorably about another LNG project that would involve construction of an artificial island in the Atlantic Ocean off the New Jersey/New York coasts. But environmental groups in New Jersey have serious concerns about that project as well.

So what was the political calculus behind the Governor's decision? Why was the opposition successful in the face of Broadwater's intensive, professionally managed campaign for approval? I'd like to invite everyone who cared about Broadwater to offer their own ideas about why it failed. If not NIMBY, then what? How was the opposition able to kill Broadwater?


Anonymous said...

Hi Frances, thanks for doing this. I typed a long response but somehow it disappeared on me. My comment is that I think Long Islanders love their waterways so much that they fight to keep them clear, regardless of whether they are the usual environmental group. Look what happened to the wind farm. I'm sure many of the anti-wind farm people were also anti Broadwater. Long Islanders want our waters left alone (though I didn't agree on the anti wind power front, I understand the sentiment). And politicians for the most part just follow whatever the public wants. So I dont' give them tons of credit. I give the credit to people like Adrienne Esposito, who is tireless in her commitment to our environment.

Jenna said...

that previous comment is from jenna, not sure why it says anonymous. I hate anonymous postings!

Frances Cerra Whittelsey said...

Jenna's right. People recognize the value of the waters around us. Take just the value of having a view of the water. It adds tens of thousands of dollars to the value of a home. However, I agree that we are going to have to make some compromises and allow some energy projects to go forward. But where they go, and what they are, should be decided after a review of the alternatives, and not left to the market and the lobbyists from big energy companies.