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From paradise to LNG depot?

LOCATED LESS than a mile from historic Boston Light, Outer Brewster Island is the seaward gateway to the treasured Boston Harbor Islands national park. This beautiful island is the heart of a fragile cluster of islands and bays that provide critical habitat for protected sea and shore birds, juvenile fish, trophy striped bass, and the lobsters that are so important to the region's maritime economy.

These waters are among the most popular recreational destinations in the park for fishing, diving, bird-watching, and boating. The views are magnificent, the water clean and clear. Each spring Save the Harbor/Save the Bay brings hundreds of young people to Outer Brewster Island and Calf Bay to see the park's only breeding colony of seals.

So it is dismaying to learn about a Virginia company's plan to lease Outer Brewster Island to build the largest liquefied natural gas terminal and storage depot in the United States.

The proposal by AES Corp. to locate a second LNG terminal on Boston Harbor and convert the national park into an industrial park wouldn't replace the terminal in Everett or reduce LNG tanker traffic into Boston's inner harbor. It wouldn't put a stop to any of the 16 other LNG terminal proposals in the region, such as the one proposed for Weaver's Cove in Fall River.

In fact, the AES proposal for the construction of a second LNG terminal on Boston Harbor would substantially increase LNG tanker traffic in the region while further restricting the use of these waters by other vessels.

The plan requires extensive blasting of Outer Brewster Island itself and of the rocky ledges of the adjacent bay. Construction of the proposed Fenway Park-sized facility would destroy the integrity of the park and the fragile ecosystem as well as spoil the views of Boston Light.

Today high-speed commuter and excursion boats, whale watch vessels, fishing boats, and many other commercial and recreational vessels regularly pass within a few hundred yards of Outer Brewster through Hypocrite Channel. The security zone that this facility would require would severely restrict commercial and recreational access to this part of the park. Since 1986, billions of dollars have been invested in the Boston Harbor cleanup and millions more in the park itself. Today that investment is beginning to pay off, with island visitation up 30 percent in 2005. The proposed LNG terminal would destroy the integrity of a magnificent recreational resource, damage critical habitat, restrict public access, and spoil the views of Boston Light. Permitting it to proceed would send the wrong message to industry -- that public parklands are for sale for private gain.

There are currently 17 proposals to site LNG facilities in the Northeastern United States and Canadian Maritimes, including two off Gloucester that would feed the same pipeline as the Outer Brewster proposal, and two in Canada that are already permitted and ready to proceed. These proposals need further review. Surely there is a better way to meet energy needs than by siting another LNG terminal in a densely populated area -- or in a national park.

E. Bruce Berman Jr. is communications director of Save the Harbor/Save the Bay.

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