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Hundreds in Long Beach voice opposition to Port Ambrose offshore gas port plan

Ryder Moore-Lukaszewski, 9, of Long Beach, joined other

Ryder Moore-Lukaszewski, 9, of Long Beach, joined other opponents of the Port Ambrose liquified natural gas transfer station, proposed 17 miles south of Long Beach, as they gathered on the Long Beach boardwalk just before sunset, Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015. Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Hundreds of residents packed the first of four meetings Monday night in Long Beach to protest the Port Ambrose liquefied natural gas terminal, proposed for about 19 miles off Jones Beach.

Long Beach City Council members, Nassau County legislators and state Assembly members voiced unanimous opposition to the offshore terminal to receive natural gas and connect to a 22-mile pipeline that would serve New York Harbor and Long Island.

The $600 million project proposed by New Jersey-based Liberty Natural Gas is pending approval by the U.S. Coast Guard and federal Maritime Administration. Opponents urged Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to veto the project by a Dec. 21 deadline. The earliest either governor can issue a veto is Friday.

The Maritime Administration cannot approve the application without both governors' approval and must issue a decision by Feb. 3. Another meeting is scheduled at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Long Beach Hotel, with meetings Wednesday and Thursday in Eatontown, New Jersey.

An environmental impact study found that the project would have a "benign" impact on the surrounding environment and was in a secure region approved by the Department of Homeland Security, Liberty chief executive Roger Whelan said.

He said New York faces a natural gas shortage not seen in the rest of the country because it doesn't have a natural gas port. He said he expects the terminal, which could be completed by 2018, to lower New York's gas heating cost from an average $100 per Btu to $5 to $6.

Whelan also expects the project to bring $90 million in local labor and contracts with $300 million in annual customer price relief. He said he has the backing of maritime labor and the Recreational Fishing Alliance.

Residents from throughout Long Island, Long Beach and New York City raised concerns about environmental hazards from the project, including spills, terrorist attacks and the forever-changing Long Beach coastline.

"I have yet to meet an individual in support of the Port Ambrose terminal. We're here to give our vociferous, full-throated opposition to this wrongheaded project," Assemb. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) said. "Our resources are so precious to us, it defines who we are. This is something presented as a danger, that is so reprehensible we won't tolerate it."

Residents urged more renewable energy, such as a wind farm proposed off the coast, instead of the natural gas terminal.

Each of the five Long Beach City Council members spoke against the project.

"One breakdown in operations is too much,and any mishap is too dangerous for this to be re-corrected," Long Beach City Councilman Scott Mandel said. "If the main purpose of this is to increase heating cost benefits, we never asked for it and we don't want it."

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