For the past few years, Liberty Natural Gas has been trying to construct an offshore port for the delivery of liquefied natural gas (LNG). The port would be located about 15 miles off the coast of Asbury Park, NJ, and a gas pipeline would be constructed along the sea floor that would deliver an estimated 1.2 cubic feet per day to the region’s hungry energy market. However, the project has serious environmental, social, and economic implications which could not be overlooked. The decision has finally been made by Governor Chris Christie: there will be no offshore LNG port off the coast of New Jersey.
Liberty Natural Gas has claimed that their method of offshore LNG deliver is clean and safe. There would be no actual port structure. Instead, the connection to the pipeline would be made by a submerged turret buoy connection. The natural gas would be converted to LNG onboard the ship and injected into the pipeline. The pipeline would run 44 miles around Sandy Hook, across Raritan Bay, and then connect to the shore at Perth Amboy. An onshore pipeline would then run nine miles to Linden where there are existing utilities and infrastructure.
According to Governor Christie, who has shown his appreciation for preserving the environment, the project would present unacceptable and substantial risks that would affect NJ residents, the environment, economy, and security. It would affect almost 6,000 acres of seafloor over prime fishing grounds. Discharge from wastewater, regasification effluent, and storm water runoff and add to the environmental degradation. The state has been working hard to improve its water quality, and the proposed project would threaten that work.
The Governor also stated that the LNG project would be a step backwards in the state’s efforts to achieve its renewable energy goals. Christie said in a statement, “This project could stifle investment in renewable energy technologies by increasing our reliance on foreign sources which would undermine progress made by New Jersey and this nation to promote sustainable energy.” He also added that it would increase security risks in a densely populated region, and would require increased demands from the US Coast Guard, State Homeland Security, and first responders.
This victory for New Jersey shore residents is in no small part thanks to the efforts of environmental advocacy groups like Clean Ocean Action, which have campaigned against this project since its inception. This organizations have put pressure on local and state officials through various events and petitions. Their commitment has appeared to pay off in the end.
“This is a clear victory for the ocean,” said Cindy Zipf, Executive Director of Clean Ocean Action. “It is our most treasured natural resource and it will now be free from harmful industrialization.” She added, “The ocean is the backbone of our state’s economy, it sustains and supports a multi-billion dollar tourism industry, provides endless hours of enjoyment on the beach and in the sea, and hosts a rich diversity of marine life. If we abuse it and put it in harm’s way our economy and way of life will diminish and ultimately collapse.”
The next battle for clean ocean advocacy groups is to persuade federal officials to pass legislation to permanently protect ocean waters off the coast of New Jersey and New York, which can be done by making it a Clean Ocean Zone.
Now that the offshore LNG project has been rejected, it does not mean the end for offshore energy in the state. However, the next energy projects will most likely come in the form of wind power. Several promising wind power projects are in the planning and permitting stages for the South Jersey coast. The state has decided, through the Governor’s actions, the direction of its energy policy: away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy.
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Article by David A Gabel, appearing courtesy Environmental News Network.