Wind, Waves and Liquified Natural Gas

John Tarleton Apr 4, 2014

New York is believed to contain vast reserves of natural gas in the Marcellus Shale formation that runs through the southern and central parts of the state. However, a powerful grassroots movement has blocked oil and gas companies from drilling in the Marcellus by pressuring the last two governors to uphold a moratorium against fracking.

Despite this success, fracking opponents are increasingly concerned that the build-out of natural gas infrastructure across the state could make future drilling in New York more lucrative and difficult to stop.

One key project in the pipeline, as it were, is “Port Ambrose,” a liquified natural gas (LNG) port to be constructed off the coast of Long Beach, Long Island near the entrance to New York Harbor. The facility would be able to handle 400 million cubic feet of gas a day, or around 3 percent of the total production from the Marcellus Shale, according to Bruce Ferguson of Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy.

Port Ambrose’s corporate sponsor is Liberty Natural Gas LLC, which is owned by a Caymen Islands-based investment fund that is managed by a Toronto affiliate. Liberty insists the port will only handle imported natural gas. Its critics scoff at the claim, pointing out that the price of natural gas is three to six times higher in international markets than in the United States. 

If the port is built, says Eric Weltman, senior organizer at Food & Water Watch, “Liberty could turn around the next day and say, ‘Hey we want to do this for export,’” and face few regulatory hurdles in getting its license revised. 

Historically, the U.S. government has tightly restricted natural gas exports for fear of causing higher prices for domestic consumers and manufacturers. With U.S.-based production booming, that policy is weakening. And amid worsening relations with Russia, many conservatives are urging the Obama administration to give its unconditional backing to opening more LNG export terminals. They see an opportunity to lessen European dependence on Russian natural gas, a goal Weltman finds short-sighted. 

“Wrecking our climate and polluting our water is not the way to help people in Europe,” he noted.

Weltman told The Indypendent that Liberty’s application to the federal Maritime Administration has stalled because the company has not provided the necessary information for the government to issue an environmental impact statement. However, he says the best chance of stopping Port Ambrose lies in pressuring either Gov. Andrew Cuomo or Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey to exercise their power to veto it in their positions as governors of “adjacent states” to the project. 

“You have a confluence of a vast anti-fracking movement with people who are concerned about the coastline,” Weltman said. 

In 2011, Gov. Christie vetoed plans for an LNG deepwater port that Liberty sought to build off the coast of Asbury Park, NJ, citing “unacceptable risks to the state’s residents, natural resources, economy and security.”

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