State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal Monday called on federal aviation regulators to demand a "no-fly" zone around a massive natural gas terminal proposed for the middle of Long Island Sound.
He said federal regulators have "completely ignored" threats from the air to the 1,200-foot-long floating terminal, proposed by Broadwater Energy LLC, even though it would provide an "obvious target."
"To be very blunt, we're opening a new front in the battle against Broadwater," Blumenthal said Monday, after a press conference at Tweed-New Haven Regional Airport.
The Broadwater proposal has received draft approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and the agency is seeking public comment on that document through Jan. 23. The last of four public hearings will be held today from 7 to 10 p.m. at Branford High School.
A Broadwater spokesman on Monday accused Blumenthal of "using the press to make his case with complete disregard for the facts."
Blumenthal, a Democrat who is among the project's most vocal opponents in Connecticut, said that creating such a "no-fly" zone would divert aircraft that now fly over the Sound to populated areas, creating pollution, security and quality-of-life concerns.
FERC's draft environmental statement includes plans to develop a security perimeter of some sort around the plant; however, federal security rules limit access to details of those plans.
Blumenthal urged the Federal Aviation Administration to insist that FERC extend its Jan. 23 deadline for public comment so the FAA can study airborne threats.
A FAA spokesperson did not return a call late Monday afternoon. A FERC spokeswoman could not be reached late Monday, a federal holiday.
John Hritkco Jr., senior vice president of Broadwater, said Blumenthal has his facts wrong. A Coast Guard study that is included in FERC's draft statement did, in fact, consider air security, he said.
Hritko said "no-fly" zones are not in place at the Millstone or Indian Point nuclear plants, and quoted the FERC document as stating: "the FAA generally does not establish no-fly zones around energy facilities such as oil or petroleum product storage tank areas, oil platforms or nuclear plants."
Broadwater Energy is a joint venture of TransCanada and Royal Dutch/Shell.
The proposed terminal would lie 11 miles off the Branford coast and, standing 200 feet tall, it would be visible on clear days from Milford's Silver Sands State Park, 15 miles away.
Freighters would ship in gas stored in liquid form; it would then be heated to a gaseous state, supplying 1 billion cubic feet of gas a day.
Broadwater officials say the energy it supplies could save Connecticut residents up to $400 a year on a typical household energy bill, although opponents hotly dispute that figure.
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The agency rejected calls by some nuclear watchdog groups that the government establish firm no-fly zones near reactors or that plant operators build "lattice-like" barriers to protect reactors.
The airport, which can even accommodate small private jets, isn't big enough to worry officials who fret over the use of planes to attack the nation's capital, according to owner David Wartofsky.
Inclusion on the list would be limited to those who pose 'an immediate threat to aviation security.'
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