Community advocates, environmental activists and local officials came together August 17 on Rockaway Beach to protest the Port Ambrose liquified natural gas facility currently being proposed for the area. Attendees crowded behind a large banner asking New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to veto the project, and speakers at the event described the dangers that such a facility could bring to the region. The project would be built 19 miles off of Long Beach, which was the site of a similar event one week earlier.
While the public comment period on the project closed in March, Governor Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie still have the power to stop the proposal from becoming a reality. The final Environmental Impact Statement on the facility has yet to be released, which will then open the 45-day window for either Governor to veto the project. However, if neither Governor vetoes the project, it will move forward. Proponents of the facility, which was proposed by Liberty Natural Gas, say the plant will help improve the delivery of natural gas to surrounding areas, particularly Long Island, during high demand seasons, and that it will lead to lower and more stable gas prices, as well as more reliable electricity.
Attendees at the Rockaway Beach event, however, had a very different story to tell. They cited dangers to the surrounding environment and wildlife, the possibility of the project becoming a terrorist target, and a halt in the talks for an offshore wind farm development being proposed for the same area.
“This is a community that has been devastated by storm after storm. We hear about Sandy, but we quickly forget about Irene, and all the storms that have devastated us time and time again. And the reason is that we keep destroying our environment,” said Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder. “We don’t take the opportunity to look at our natural resources and try to utilize them in the right way. And sadly we continue to take these dangerous chemicals, and put them right in our backyard. It’s unacceptable.”
Other speakers, such as State Senator Joe Addabbo of the 15th Senate District, expanded on the security issues that could come from a facility like this, highlighting the highly volatile nature of liquified natural gas. A representative from the office of Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, who has stood against the proposal, was also in attendance. Though the project is advertised by Liberty Natural Gas as being import-only, attendees at the event also pointed to the lack of regulations currently in place against the facility exporting natural gas down the line and leading to an increase in the demand for natural gas obtained through fracking, a controversial drilling practice that requires injecting a cocktail of toxic chemicals deep into the Earth to release gas deposits.
Monica Hunken, one of the organizers of the event, pointed back to the significance of there being a green option for the area. “So often, we don’t have that. But now we have this very clear option, we have wind turbines that could be there, right in the same place. We have that alternative. And then on the other side, what do we have? We have toxicity, we have pollution.”
Proponents of the Port Ambrose project insist that the facility will not prevent the development of the wind turbines in the same area, but attendees at the event saw it as a clear choice that the Governor has to make. Hunken continued, “We are here to draw a line in the sand against Port Ambrose to tell [Governor] Cuomo to stand with us, to stand with renewable energy, and against liquified natural gas.”
Fellow organizer Jessica Roff added, “It’s so important that Governor Cuomo knows that Rockaway does not want Port Ambrose. This is the chance, this is our line in the sand, this is where we get to say no to Port Ambrose, and to tell Governor Cuomo, [that] we won’t stand for it.”
"Beach Town vs. Big Energy" by Alex Ellefson