Gov. Cuomo rejects proposed gas terminal off New York, New Jersey over safety, environment

LONG BEACH, N.Y. – Gov. Andrew Cuomo has rejected a proposal to build a liquefied natural gas terminal in the waters off New York and New Jersey, effectively killing the project amid an outcry from residents of some coastal communities that it could endanger the environment and be a target for terrorists.

The deep-water docking station known as Port Ambrose was to be built 19 miles off Jones Beach on Long Island and 29 miles off Long Branch, New Jersey. Liberty Natural Gas LLC, the company vying to develop Port Ambrose, said the port would allow it to inject natural gas into the New York-area pipeline, which could lower home heating bills there, among the most expensive in the nation.

The company had been trying for years to obtain approval from the federal Maritime Administration to operate the facility. But federal regulations require the governors of the neighbouring states — New York and New Jersey — to approve the project. According to the regulations, either governor could object to the proposal, forcing the agency to deny Liberty’s application.

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

Cuomo formally announced his veto of the project Thursday in Long Beach, on Long Island. He also expressed concerns that the LNG project might affect commercial fishing in the area and could interfere with an off-shore wind power project proposed by the New York Power Authority.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a similar version of the proposal in 2011 and vowed to continue opposing the project for as long as he served as governor. His office reiterated that past opposition Thursday but had no other immediate comment.

Environmentalists, who urged Cuomo to block the project, applauded the decision. This year, groups protested in front of a Broadway show the governor was attending, and another protest was planned for Thursday night at a Cuomo fundraiser.

“Today, Gov. Cuomo has closed the door on the antiquated energy policies of the past and opened the door for a meaningful renewable energy future,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Long Island-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

Sean Dixon, a staff attorney for the environmental group Riverkeeper, said: “Saying no to Port Ambrose means saying yes to our fisheries, offshore wind power, shipping and vital protection for the ocean.”

Liberty had argued that the terminal would offer relief from high winter heating bills, noting that because long-haul pipelines originate in the Gulf of Mexico and western Canada, most of the country’s natural gas supply is used up before it makes its way to the New York metropolitan area in the winter months, driving up prices.

Liberty’s president, Roger Whelan, has maintained that many of the people opposing the project are misguided and acting out of fear. He argues that a federal environmental study on the proposal discounts any thought the port presents any type of safety risk.

Whelan said in a statement that the company was “disappointed and very surprised” by Cuomo’s decision.

“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,” he said.


Klepper reported from Albany. Associated Press writer Frank Eltman contributed to this report from Mineola, New York.