Saturday, January 15, 2005

Broadwater's Arguments Rebutted

Yesterday I criticized a couple of opponents of Broadwater's LNG proposal for exaggerating the terminals threat. Today I'm going to look at the counter-arguments that John Hritcko, Broadwater's senior vice president and regional project director, makes when an opponent suggests that the middle of Long Island Sound is not the place for an industrial facility.

A number of speakers made that argument at Thursday's meeting in Norwalk, which Save the Sound organized.

Hritcko has said on more than one occasion -- and he said it again on Thursday in a phone interview with the Stamford Advocate -- that the no-industrialization argument is irrelevant because industrialization already has come to the Sound, in New Haven and elsewhere. Either he or the Advocate also made the point that New Haven is the second busiest port in New England (Boston obviously is first).

Hritcko also said that there is no basis for assuming that Broadwater's project would be the harbinger for future development of the Sound. In other words, the LNG terminal won't set a precedent.

I'm glad it won't set a precedent. But I'm more concerned because Broadwater's LNG proposal is a stupendously bad idea even if no other industrial facility is ever proposed for the Sound or its shore. Precedent or no precedent, the middle of the Sound is a bad place for an industrial facility.

As for Hritko's other argument -- that industrialization has already come to the Sound, specifically to New Haven -- it is certainly true that New Haven is an industrial harbor. But so what? The middle of the Sound isn't New Haven. No one would propose an industrial facility for a forest 11 miles from New Haven and justify it by saying, "It's OK because New Haven is industrialized."

The industrial era is over on Long Island Sound. When did it end? Who knows -- 50 or 60 years ago? Existing industries are a vestige. And although the industrial era in some ways led to a golden age for some of the cities on or near the Sound -- Bridgeport and Waterbury among them -- for the Sound itself and for its tributaries, it was anything but. The industrial era was a time when the Sound's main purpose was to be the place where industrial and urban wastes were dumped, generally through a pipe that led directly into the water. The Sound, its harbors, and its rivers are still paying the price, in the form of sediments contaminated with heavy metals and hypoxia that remains a critical problem.

In my book, I quoted Al Appleton, who back in the Dinkins Administration was the commissioner of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection: "We who are the public," he said, "no longer want to use Long Island Sound to subsidize certain kinds of economic activities."

It was true in 1990 and it's true now.


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