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Plans for “gas islands” go ka-boom • Brooklyn Paper

Plans for “gas islands” go ka-boom

Cancel those plans for a new fallout shelter — two out of three proposals for natural gas processing facilities off the coast of Coney Island that were lambasted by environmental watchdogs as potential explosive disasters are dead in the water.

The two facilities — essentially man-made islands used to receive liquefied natural gas, heat it up, and then funnel it to New Jersey, where it would be distributed throughout the northeast — became an especially tough sale for the companies involved, Exxon and the Atlantic Sea Island Group, thanks to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

It also didn’t help the companies’ sales pitch that the facilities, along with the tankers that would service them, could — in a worst case scenario — explode with the force of 55 atomic bombs, say critics.

“People now know that an offshore energy project 300 miles away can really affect you,” said Sean Dixon, a lawyer with Clean Ocean Action, a group that opposes the projects. “It can destroy fisheries, coastal tourism, and much more.”

Still, one gas exportation facility — spearheaded by Liberty Natural Gas, a company created for the project — is moving forward.

Exxon’s project, called Blue Ocean Energy, would have been roughly 25 miles off the coast of Coney Island.

A spokeswoman for the energy giant, Rachel Moore, said that the plant was put on hold indefinitely because “the natural gas supply and demand outlook for the region has changed since the project was launched in 2007.”

But Moore wouldn’t clarify whether the change in “demand outlook” had anything to do with the overwhelming unease over ambitious energy-extraction projects.

The Atlantic Sea Island Group’s project — which would have been around 25 miles from Coney Island as well — was labeled “Insanity Island” by opponents, who said the project was an unnecessary environmental disaster waiting to happen.

That project was recently singled out by New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who has pledged to oppose all offshore liquefied natural terminals under his jurisdiction.

Representatives of the Atlantic Sea Island Group could not be reached for comment, but told the Newark Star-Ledger that the project was being put on hold only until the furor over the current oil spill died down.

Still, Dixon and several other environmental advocates gleefully describe the project as all but dead.

Both projects received significantly more attention from residents of New Jersey, given that the natural gas would be channeled to the shore in an subsea pipeline before being distributed.

Still, the prospect of an explosion with a 10-mile blast radius caused some Brooklynites unease.

Community Board 13 even sent a resolution in opposition to the offshore islands to both Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Paterson, but no board members were ready to take credit for the projects’ demise.

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