A proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) transfer facility that backers see as a fix to energy woes and opponents call “Insanity Island” gets its first public airing tonight.

The showdown pits dozens of environmental groups against Atlantic Sea Island Group, a company that bills its project as a “safe energy harbor” to be built in the Atlantic about 19 miles due east of Sea Bright, in 65 feet of water.

The venue for the showdown: a hearing on the proposed deepwater port held jointly by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Maritime Administration at the Sheraton of Eatontown. An open house starting at 4:30p is to be followed by the hearing, from 6 to 8p.

The hearing is part of the environmental
impact review by the federal agencies that oversee
maritime concerns.

Sandy Hook-based Clean Ocean Action is leading a campaign to lobby the federal government to shoot down the 86-acre (above water) offshore industrial complex project. Opponents contend it will require a volume of fill material equal to 10 Empire State Buildings, causing undersea havoc on endangered species, prime fishing grounds, underwater habitat, navigation, safety, and security.

Clean Ocean Action Director Cindy Zipf has called LNG a dirty,
foreign fossil fuel with the conversion process a major pollutant. She and others have also raised safety issues about accidental gas releases.

Also challenging the plan are the American Littoral Society, the SurferÂ’s Environmental Alliance and other organizations.

Atlantic Sea Island is first of three companies with offshore LNG proposals to reach the approval process. Its island would receive,
store and regasify liquid natural gas imported from overseas.

The plan also calls for a subsea
pipeline for transportation of LNG, and a shore-based facility to help
with the movement of personnel, equipment and supplies and disposable
materials betweeen the port and shore.

The company says the port, which would take about five years to build, would be capable of delivering up to two billion
cubic feet of natural gas per day to the New York metropolitan region.

One major LNG project proposed for the Long Island Sound was rejected by both New York and Connecticut.

While Governor Corzine included LNG as an alternative fuel prospect in his Master Energy Plan last fall, it is not clear whether he would support ASIG’s project.

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