Thursday, April 10, 2008

Will Broadwater Walk Away?

With Govenor Patterson expected to reject Broadwater this afternoon, the question is whether the company will walk away or continue fighting to build the project.

Yesterday, I posed that question to Broadwater Energy's Regional Project Director, John Hritcko. We were sitting around a polished wood conference table at the company's Riverhead offices just off Old Country Road behind the Taco Bell.

"Until we see the decision and the basis for it, we can't decide," said Hritcko, noting that the company had just filed a new response to 17 environmental shortcomings pointed out by the state's Department of Environmental Conservation. The company may appeal if it believes "we can work with it," but would withdraw "if you don't think you'll ever reach agreement."

The appeal would be made to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, who would determine whether New York's decision is consistent with the requirements of the Coastal Zone Management Act. New York has never had such a decision overruled, and Adrienne Esposito of Citizen's Campaign for the Environment believes the state would defend itself vigorously if challenged.

If the leadership does decide to withdraw, it will be a testimonial to the strength of public concern about Long Island's environment and the gut-deep understanding of the value of Long Island Sound to all of us. Broadwater pulled out all the stops to gain approval, as Karl Grossman points out in his latest column in East End newspapers. Former elected officials including even Rudy Giuliani couldn't throw enough political weight to override the opposition, even with skilled PR help.

The good news is that, unlike LILCO, Broadwater can't walk away and leave Long Islanders holding the bag. I'll never forgive the former LILCO execs for ordering a low-power test at Shoreham just before they were forced to give up on the project. With that low-power test, they were able to move more of the cost of the plant into the rate base for computing what we all pay for electricity, thus driving up our rates. And, at the same time, they contaminated the facility at Shoreham with radiation so that it became a hazard, unusable for other purposes, and requiring security measures for generations to come.

This time, at least, Broadwater's parent companies, Shell and TransCanada, will have to eat what they spent while underestimating the passion of Long Islanders for our environment.

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