Call for move to clean energy follows veto of Port Ambrose


LONG BRANCH — The New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club is calling for development of offshore wind energy to move the state toward a clean-energy future following the veto of a proposal for a liquefied natural gas (LNG) port off the coast of Long Branch.

“The veto of this port is another step in the right direction for New Jersey to make the switch from dirty fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

“We can use our coasts for clean wind power that won’t pose a threat to communities or add to climate change. … This veto of the LNG port was an important step in protecting our oceans and moving towards clean energy.”

The proposal for a liquefied natural gas facility off the coast of Long Branch has come to an end after a seven-year battle that included project site changes and a previous veto by Gov. Chris Christie.

On Nov. 12, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed the proposed Port Ambrose Deepwater Port application to the delight of many environmental activists and political leaders alike.

“My administration carefully reviewed this project from all angles, and we have determined that the security and economic risks far outweigh any potential benefits,” Gov. Cuomo said.

“Superstorm Sandy taught us how quickly things can go from bad to worse when major infrastructure fails — and the potential for disaster with this project during extreme weather or amid other security risks is simply unacceptable.”

The Port Ambrose Deepwater Port application, proposed by the Jersey City-based Liberty Natural Gas, a portfolio company of a fund advised by Toronto-based investment management firm West Face Capital — would have been built about 29 miles off the coast of Long Branch and 15 miles off Sandy Hook.

“We are disappointed and very surprised with Gov. Cuomo’s decision to not allow a cleaner, more affordable energy supply to reach New York consumers,” Roger Whelan, CEO of Liberty Natural Gas, said. “We had hoped that the safety and environmental concerns raised by the governor had been thoroughly addressed and dismissed in the Final Environmental Impact Statement.”

The facility would have imported an estimated 400 million cubic feet of liquefied natural gas per day and would have been connected via a proposed 22-mile pipeline, feeding into Transco’s existing Lower New York Bay Lateral pipeline.

“This is a common-sense decision, because vetoing this project is in the best interests of New Yorkers,” Cuomo said.

Christie vetoed an earlier iteration of LNG’s proposal in 2011, and plans for the liquefied natural gas port were put on hold by federal agencies in March of this year due, in part, to the high volume of public and governmental comment surrounding the proposal.

“Today is a major victory in our efforts to protect the environment and our natural resources,” Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth) said. “I applaud Gov. Cuomo for standing up and vetoing this project today just as Gov. Christie did in 2011.

“Liberty Natural Gas has been sent a message loud and clear … the proposed Port Ambrose LNG facility had far too many risks to our ocean and coastal communities and had no benefit for citizens of New Jersey. There were no new jobs, no new energy sources, and zero economic benefits.”

The governors of the adjacent coastal states of New York and New Jersey had 45 days to approve the application; approve the application with conditions; or deny the proposed deepwater port.

The Maritime Administration (MARAD) has until Feb. 3 to issue a Record of Decision.

A spokesman for MARAD declined to comment on the question of whether the veto means the application would not proceed.

He referred questions to the MARAD licensing regulations, which require the approval of the governors of the adjacent coastal states.

Clean Ocean Action, which has spearheaded the opposition to the LNG proposal, lauded the veto.

“Today Gov. Cuomo vetoed the proposed Port Ambrose liquefied natural gas facility,” according to a statement from the ocean advocacy group. “His quick decision shows that this project was dangerous, unneeded and unnecessary.

“This is a warning to fossil fuels that our coast is off limits.”