Angry crowd confronts Liberty Natural Gas over South Shore plan

There were mixed reactions at the first of two hearings on the proposal to put a natural gas transfer station 19 miles south of Jones Beach. Videojournalist: Jim Staubitser (July 9, 2013)

Several members of an angry crowd shouted "Go home" at executives of Liberty Natural Gas during a hearing Tuesday where they expressed their fears for a project to put a natural gas transfer station 19 miles south of Jones Beach.

"We have not ponied up the money to buy the Brooklyn Bridge and we are not buying this," said Jill Wiener, a member of Catskills Citizens for Safe Energy, who joined 250 people at Allegria Hotel in Long Beach.

Up to 60 people signed up to speak at the hearing, which was run by federal officials from the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Maritime Administration. Others expressed their outrage at a news conference before the hearing.


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Some said they couldn't be sure that Liberty Natural Gas is not planning to use the station to export gas to other countries that would pay up to six times the going rate here.

Others were concerned that Liberty was trying to use the project as a steppingstone in its quest for approval for hydrofracking upstate.

"Why are we shackling ourselves to fossil fuels of the past?" asked Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

She said she supports the wind farm project that New York Power Authority wants to build in the same area, adding that wind farms are "clean, safe, homegrown American energy."

Under what is called the "Port Ambrose" project, Liberty would build a $300 million system consisting of two buoys, two pipelines and a 22-mile main. The main would link up to an existing natural-gas pipeline system that serves Long Island and New York City.

A tanker, which would cost $300 million, would carry up to 3.75 billion cubic feet of liquefied natural gas, mostly from the Caribbean, and turn it into a gas before pumping it through the buoys, according to the plan.

The federal license Liberty seeks would authorize up to 45 tanker trips a year, but Roger Whelan, Liberty's chief executive and president -- who was jeered at the hearing -- expected eight to 12 trips a year.

He has said the project would lower energy bills and create 600 construction jobs.

One of the few supporters of the project at the hearing was Long Island Federation of Labor executive director Roger Clayman.

"This project is about providing good jobs, providing a clean source of energy and helping everyone pay their utility bills," he said.

In a statement, Whelan said: "Our company has always been open to listening to various stakeholders and adapting our plans when it comes to our projects."

The U.S. Maritime Administration, the Coast Guard, and New York's and New Jersey's governors must approve the plan.

With Zachary R. Dowdy

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