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Public to discuss proposed gas transfer station

A look at the east end of Jones

A look at the east end of Jones Beach, damaged by superstorm Sandy. (Oct. 31, 2012) Credit: Doug Kuntz

Supporters and critics will face off Tuesday in the first public hearing over a controversial plan to build a natural gas transfer station 19 miles south of Jones Beach.

Under the "Port Ambrose" project, Liberty Natural Gas would build a $300 million system consisting of two buoys, two pipelines and a 22-mile main. This 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 would authorize up to 45 tanker trips a year, but Roger Whelan, Liberty's chief executive and president, expected eight to 12 trips a year would be possible.

The project would bring 600 construction jobs and lower consumers' natural gas bills, Whelan said.

But opponents worry about gas explosions and tanker accidents, saying it's about 30 miles east of New Jersey and too close to busy New York Harbor.

It'll also be inside the area where the New York Power Authority wants to build a wind farm. "We believe this to be the preferred use for the site," the agency said.

Critics claim Liberty will export domestic gas to countries that pay higher prices. Other suppliers have partial government approval to export natural gas.

This export trend will push up natural gas prices domestically and pressure state officials to approve the controversial drilling of natural gas upstate, said Sean Dixon, attorney for Clean Ocean Action in New Jersey.

A 4:30 p.m. open house at the Allegria Hotel in Long Beach will be followed by the 6 p.m. hearing. The U.S. Maritime Administration, the Coast Guard and New York and New Jersey governors must approve the plan.

Nassau Legis. Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick) said he's been frustrated at hearing contradictory arguments: "We need more information."

Whelan said he'll meet with groups to drum up local support. His company, part of an investment fund based in the Cayman Islands and run by a Canadian firm, will give $20 million to $30 million to be a "good citizen" to community groups and to compensate impacted fisheries.

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