Environmentalists to NY: Scrap liquefied gas plans
ALBANY — Environmental groups this week delivered thousands of comments critical of New York's proposed liquefied natural gas regulations and demanded the state withdraw the proposals and start over.
The regulations would allow LNG fueling and storage facilities in New York for the first time since 1973, when the state imposed a moratorium following an LNG facility explosion on Staten Island that killed 40 workers.
New Yorkers Against Fracking, Sierra Club and other organizations were in Albany to deliver what they said were more than 50,000 comments on the regulations. They also delivered a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo asking that the regulations be withdrawn. Wednesday was the last day for public comment on the proposed regulations.
The Department of Environmental Conservation says the main reason for the new rules is to allow fueling stations.
But the environmental groups say they pave the way for much larger facilities and lack sufficient safety protections. They say the regulations also would allow the oil and gas industry to set in place the infrastructure needed if Cuomo allows high-volume hydraulic fracturing, which has been banned since an environmental review began in 2008.
"These regulations have nothing whatsoever to do with fracking, and everything to do with putting cleaner trucks on our highways," DEC spokesman Peter Constantakes said via email, noting that LNG-fueled long-haul trucks produce less of the health-damaging emissions produced by burning diesel fuel.
The regulations have drawn support from the American Lung Association, the League of Conservation Voters and other groups because of the potential to reduce diesel pollution.
New York's moratorium puts up a roadblock as companies, including Royal Dutch Shell PLC, General Electric Co. and Clean Energy Fuels build out a nationwide network of LNG fueling facilities and several companies, including UPS, have begun to convert to LNG-fueled fleets. The fuel, made by chilling natural gas to an extremely low temperature to liquefy it, is far cheaper than diesel.
Opponents of the regulations say DEC documents go much further than allowing truck fueling stations and would allow for the construction of huge import/export terminals and facilities with millions of gallons of storage capacity. They also cite concerns about air emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas linked to climate change.
Jill Wiener of Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy also said that the regulations are "so vague as to be virtually meaningless."
DEC must provide written response to public comments when it releases its final version of the regulations.