Blumenthal, oysters stop gas pipeline

John O'Brien Aug. 23, 2007, 2:00pm


BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - Thanks to a federal court ruling protecting Connecticut's seafood industry, a 45-mile natural gas pipeline will not be constructed in the Long Island Sound.

The decision was handed down Monday by U.S. District Court Judge Stefan Underhill, who overturned a U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez decision to grant Islander East a coastal zone permit. Underhill claims the decision "failed to address an important aspect of (Connecticut's) problem" with the pipeline.

"The outcome confirms our essential point that the Commerce Secretary disregarded both hard facts and evidence in his illegal decision," Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said. "For now, and hopefully forever, this decision means that we have conquered an environmental and economic catastrophe.

"If there is truly a need for natural gas on Long Island, it can come from elsewhere through a pipeline placed elsewhere, avoiding devastating harm to both environmental and consumer interests."

Islander East has not decided on its next step, a spokesman told Long Island Business News.

"We're not giving up, and we're certainly disappointed," John Sheridan said. "We are trying to figure out what the best option is. We're not ruling out an appeal."

Underhill wrote that Gutierrez ignored the effect the pipeline would have on Connecticut's oyster industry. Blumenthal says the state ranks first in the nation in the dollar value of its harvested oysters and first on the East Coast for clam production.

The project would have been sited among the Thimble Islands, a key fishing area.

"We have protected against a project that is worst case and worst place for precious environmental interests -- water quality in Long Island Sound, pristine coastal resources in the Thimble Islands, wildlife and aquatic systems that depend on this area," Blumenthal said.

"We are ready and willing to fight an appeal by Islander East. At stake is a national treasure."

Blumenthal added the company still needs a water quality permit to proceed and has been denied twice by the Department of Environmental Protection. Blumenthal himself argued against Islander East during its latest appeal, which is pending decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

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