LONG BEACH, N.Y. (AP) -- A proposal to build a liquefied natural gas terminal off the coasts of New York and New Jersey received a largely negative response Tuesday at a public hearing in a suburban New York community still struggling to recover from the effects of Superstorm Sandy.
Several hundred people crowded into a hotel conference room in Long Beach, just steps from where work continues to replace a 2-mile-long boardwalk destroyed in last year's storm. Most of those who spoke said they opposed the proposal on environmental, security and economic concerns.
"Imported LNG is not the sustainable, clean energy policy that New York and Long Island has been working (on) for over the last decade," said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the New York-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment. She noted that a proposal for a wind energy farm in the same vicinity was a preferred option.
Liberty Natural Gas has applied to federal authorities for permission to build the port in the ocean 17 miles off Jones Beach, N.Y., and 24 miles off Long Branch, N.J. A second public hearing will be held Wednesday in Edison, N.J.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a similar proposal in 2011.
Among those speaking against the proposal were residents of upstate New York, who oppose efforts to allow hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. Although the Liberty application is to allow for imported natural gas, some feared that once the project is built, exporting of natural gas would be possible.
"Exports could be allowed with the simple petition for an amendment," said Sean Dixon, a coastal policy attorney with Clean Ocean Action, a New Jersey-based coalition of environmental groups fighting the proposal. "That possibility is something that is not worth the risk."
Roger Whelan, Liberty's CEO, said in a statement that the proposal is similar to a terminal already operating near Boston. He said a similar plan is in the works near Tampa, Fla. He claimed the project will provide 600 jobs and inject $90 million into the regional economy.
"These meetings are the first step in the comprehensive federal and state review process that will take place over the next year," Whelan said. "We look forward to working with both federal and state agencies as this process moves forward."
Among those backing the project were several union members, one of whom was jeered when he addressed the hearing, which was conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Transportation Department's Maritime Administration.
Liquefied natural gas would be shipped to the site in vessels capable of converting it back into gas form. They would connect to the facility of submerged buoys and transfer the gas into an existing 22-mile long pipeline serving Long Island and New York City.