FERC issues favorable final environmental assessment for Downeast LNG

Posted May 15, 2014, at 4:54 p.m.
Last modified May 16, 2014, at 9:21 a.m.

ROBBINSTON, Maine — The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued its final environmental impact statement for a proposed liquefied natural gas project in Washington County on Thursday, saying that the mitigation measures it recommends would eliminate impacts or render them of minor consequence.

Downeast LNG is seeking approval to develop a liquefied natural gas import terminal in Robbinston that would provide about 500 million cubic feet per day of imported natural gas to the New England region.

The proposed facility would consist of two storage tanks, a re-gasification plant, a pier to receive LNG carriers and a natural gas pipeline to connect the facility to the existing Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline that runs from Nova Scotia through Maine.

“The FERC staff concludes that approval of the proposed project, with the mitigation measures recommended in the (environmental impact statement), would ensure that most impacts in the project area would be avoided or reduced to less than significant levels,” wrote Secretary Kimberly Bose in a draft letter to the parties involved.

Construction and operations would result in temporary and short-term environmental impacts, according to Bose, who added that “some long-term and permanent environmental impacts would occur.”

Robert Godfrey of Eastport, representing Save Passamaquoddy Bay, an adversary of the project, said the environmental impact statement shows that the company still “has daunting requirements to fulfill.”

Opposition from the Passamaquoddy Tribe is a major obstacle to the project, said Godfrey.

“One of the greatest problems facing Downeast LNG is that it has not obtained Passamaquoddy Tribal Government consent regarding use of the waterway — a requirement of the U.S. Coast Guard — and regarding the damage and destruction that would occur to tribal cultural and religious assets,” Godfrey said in a prepared statement,

Dean Girdis, president and founder of Downeast LNG, said in an email to the BDN on Thursday afternoon that he disagreed with Godfrey’s position, but did not comment on the environmental impact statement.

Godfrey also argued in February that there is no need for an import facility because of dramatic shifts in energy production and markets. For example, he pointed to an announcement by Spectra Energy that it would reverse and expand its pipeline systems in order to carry natural gas from areas of abundant supply in New York and Pennsylvania to markets in New England and the Maritime Provinces.

FERC staffers, in their executive summary, noted the primary reasons for their determination. Among them was the Coast Guard’s recommendation that the Passamaquoddy Bay Waterway is suitable for the vessels that would be going to and from the terminal provided that recommended risk mitigation measures are implemented.

Recommendations contained in the assessment would allow adverse impacts to sensitive habitats and wildlife species to be avoided or minimized, according to FERC.

The report also cited the company’s plan to minimize impacts on soils, wetlands and waterbodies.

Downeast LNG is continuing consultations with federal and state agencies to address environmental issues and it also must comply with provisions of the National Historic Preservation Act and obtain federal and state permits.

According to the FERC statement, commissioners will take into consideration the staff’s recommendations when they make a decision on the project. There was no indication when that might happen.

 

CORRECTION:

A previous version of this story contained comments attributed to Girdis that did not apply to the Federal Energy Regulatory’s release of an impact statement on Thursday. Additionally, it is not the draft enviornmental impact statement. It is the final statement.

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