Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Broadwater: No and No. Islander East: No and Yes

If generalizations are allowed, then it’s safe to say that Long Islanders don’t want Broadwater to build a liquefied natural gas terminal in the middle of Long Island Sound, nine miles north of Wading River, but they do want Islander East to send natural gas from Connecticut to Wading River by building a natural gas pipeline under the Sound (that is, buried in its mud and silt and oyster beds, the latter of which happen to be in Connecticut).

Connecticut residents agree with them on Broadwater (that is, Shell and TransCanada) but disagree on the Islander East pipeline (Keyspan and Duke Energy).

Yesterday the Suffolk County Legislature agreed to kick in another one hundred grand to mount a legal fight to stop Broadwater. One of the things they’re afraid of is that the huge LNG terminal won’t be secure enough and will need to be guarded by people with bombs and bullets. According to one legislator:

"Gunboats are going to be needed to protect that area."

Broadwater of course trotted out its tried-and-true response: he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. From Newsday:

Broadwater officials dismissed [the] comments as "complete nonsense," saying the energy company has no plans to arm its terminal or boats. The only people carrying guns will be the Coast Guard and local police, said senior vice president John Hritcko Jr. "There are better ways to protect the facility. This is simply a scare tactic."

The truth is, they’re probably already there. The Coast Guard has been protecting, off and on, ferries in the northeast since September 11, 2001, and when I returned from Block Island to Point Judith last August, a Coast Guard gunboat rode in our wake for most of the way. I’d be surprised if they aren’t occasionally following the New London-Orient Point or Bridgeport-Port Jefferson ferries too.

Connecticut folks will be happy about that. Long Islanders will be less happy that yesterday the Connecticut DEP denied (not for the first time) Islander East a permit to put its pipeline through Branford’s waters, past the Thimble Islands, and through some productive oyster beds. From the Hartford Courant:

In a decision released Tuesday, the DEP repeated its stance that the pipeline will threaten the waters that surround the Thimbles and harm the cultivation of oysters and clams.

"While the bottom of the Sound may be out of sight we cannot allow it to be out of mind," said DEP Commissioner Gina McCarthy in a statement. The DEP relied on the same experts and studies cited in its earlier decision that threw out Islander East's request for a water quality permit, in 2004. But this time, the DEP packaged the information more comprehensively. In October, a federal appeals court ordered the DEP to take a second look at the project and provide more evidence for its denial.

Among the DEP's findings:

Natural sediment along a wide, mile-long trench would be replaced with gravel backfill once the pipeline is in. The change to the sea bottom would have a devastating and long-lasting effect on the oysters and clams that grow there.

More than 7 million gallons of drilling fluid would fall onto the seafloor during construction - enough to fill the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. The lubrication fluids, plus silt dispersed during construction, would degrade water quality.

Dredging and the anchoring of work barges during installation would eliminate nearly 600 acres of commercial shellfish beds and another 500 beds not yet harvested.

Islander East, of course, will appeal.



Blogger Sam said...

The DEP statement about drilling fluids being left on the oyster beds is indeed alarming - 7 million gallons. I'm no expert on the subject but my understanding is that when drilling, mud is forced down the inside pipe so the tailings can return back up the outside casing pipe. The tailings are put in a "tailings table" or tank where sediment and contaminants are removed. The MMS has stringent offshore drilling regulations because drilling fluids, although diverse, have been known to contain barium, mercury, and chromium. Indeed, a good portion of the methyl mercury found in fish tissues may have been from drilling fluids, especially back in the days when drilling fluids were unregulated.

Pipeline trenching is very different from horizontal drilling and generally does not require and boring equipment (except on the landside part). Instead, a towed remotely operated vehicle (ROV) is used to dig a trench, such as with jetted water of other technology. Pipe laying barges (or ships) are usually used for this job. The environmental impacts are the jet-blasted sediment which mixes in the water column befores settling, which can dramatically raise turbidity.

However, my understanding is that no drilling fluids are used in the trenching method. So now I'm confused.


10:57 AM  
Anonymous Bryan said...

Directional drilling has been used on local projects because (I think) it's perceived to be a less harmful alternative than trenching. In fact, there are cable-laying projects off the south shore of Long Island that haven't raised much if any concern. Maybe no one has looked as closely as CT has with respect to the impacts of drilling mud. Also, I expect that the cross-section of an electrical cable is smaller than a gas pipeline. The LI drilling projects aren't going through (or under) commercial oyster beds, but they are sensitive wetlands all the same. I'm going to have to do some research and get a better understanding.

2:09 PM  
Blogger CT Energy said...

Here's an update on that appeal:

10:46 PM  

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