Thursday, February 15, 2007

Is Governor Spitzer Preparing to Say Yes to Broadwater?

Curt Johnson of Connecticut Fund for the Environment and I were talking the other day about how Broadwater’s fate is probably in New York State’s hands, and I told him that I’d be shocked if Eliot Spitzer thinks the proposal to put a liquefied natural gas terminal in Long Island Sound is a good idea.

For one thing, the state Department of State has an admirable history of saying no to projects that are incompatible with state coastal zone policies – Davids Island in New Rochelle and the Millennium Pipeline that was proposed to cross the Hudson being two good examples. The Department of State has already written to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that Broadwater seems to be in violation of several coastal zone policies.

And then there are the letters to FERC from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Office of General Services, which say that there isn’t enough information in the draft environmental impact statement to make a judgment about how the terminal would affect the Sound.

But today’s Newsday has a story saying that “at least one high-level government source is betting [Spitzer] will” approve the project.

That alone is no reason to panic. There’s not much of a clue in the story about who the high-level source is, and when reporters write a phrase like “at least one high-level source,” it means that only one source made that statement: if two high level sources said it, the reporters would have written that. “At least one” is a reporter’s way of fudging the fact that he couldn’t find anyone else to make that statement but since he didn’t talk to absolutely every high level source there might be another one lurking somewhere.

And the anonymous quote is balanced by an official statement from Spitzer’s spokeswoman:

"He really does want to look at the statement first," said his spokeswoman, Christine Anderson. "He wants to put the time in before commenting."

That’s reassuring.

The story goes on to say, however, that Spitzer has delegated the review to the Long Island Power Authority:

Consultants for the Long Island Power Authority are wrapping up a study examining the Broadwater proposal, and people familiar with the study's conclusions say it paints a generally favorable outlook.

Assemb. Marc Alessi (D-Manor Park), whose district includes areas near the proposed offshore site, said he wrote Spitzer in January expressing concerns about the draft environmental impact statement. Alessi said he was "taken aback a bit" when his letter was answered last week not by Spitzer but by LIPA chief executive Richard Kessel, saying Spitzer had delegated a lead role on Broadwater to LIPA. Spitzer's spokeswoman, Anderson, said Kessel and newly named LIPA chairman Kevin Law would undertake the role.

It’s hard to know what to think about all this, except that it’s clear the Adrienne Esposito has her work cut out for her.

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