FERC issues Final Environmental Impact Statement on the Downeast LNG Project

abarrelfullabarrelfull wrote on 19 May 2014 08:22
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The staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (Commission or FERC) has prepared a final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Downeast LNG Project (Project). The Project is proposed by Downeast LNG, Inc. and Downeast Pipeline, LLC (collectively Downeast).

The Project would provide about 500 million cubic feet per day of imported natural gas to the New England region. The proposed facilities would be located in Washington County, Maine, and include:

  • a new marine terminal that would include a 3,862-foot-long pier with a single berth and vessel mooring system, intended to handle LNG vessels ranging from 70,000 to 165,000 cubic meters in capacity;
  • two full-containment LNG storage tanks, each with a nominal usable storage capacity of 160,000 cubic meters;
  • LNG vaporization and processing equipment;
  • piping, ancillary buildings, safety systems, and other support facilities;
  • three vapor fences around the LNG terminal;
  • a 29.8-mile-long, 30-inch-diameter underground natural gas pipeline;
  • natural gas metering facilities located at the LNG terminal site; and
  • various ancillary facilities including pigging1 facilities and three mainline block valves.

The EIS was prepared in compliance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Council on Environmental Quality regulations for implementing NEPA (40 Code of Federal Regulations [CFR] 1500–1508), and FERC regulations implementing NEPA (18 CFR 380).

The U.S. Coast Guard; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; U.S. Department of Transportation; and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection served as cooperating agencies in the preparation of the EIS.

The FERC staff concludes that approval of the proposed project, with the mitigation measures recommended in the EIS, would ensure that most impacts in the project area would be avoided or reduced to less than significant levels. Construction and operation of the project would primarily result in temporary and short-term environmental impacts; however, some long-term and permanent environmental impacts would occur. These conclusions are supported by the following:

  • the Coast Guard’s Letter of Recommendation states that the Passamaquoddy Bay Waterway is suitable for the type and frequency of marine traffic associated with the proposed project, provided that recommended risk mitigation measures outlined in section 4.6 of the Waterway Suitability Report are fully implemented;
  • adverse impacts on sensitive habitats and wildlife species would be avoided or minimized with incorporation of staff recommendations;
  • consultation required by Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, and Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, would be completed prior to construction;
  • Downeast has committed to obtain all federal permits and authorizations and would obtain the necessary permits from the State of Maine;
  • Downeast is continuing consultation with federal and state agencies to finalize a wetlands mitigation plan; develop a Prevention and Mitigation Manual to minimize adverse impacts on listed species, develop a final Deer Wintering Area mitigation package, determine seasonal or construction timing restrictions, design mitigation strategies to minimize acoustic harassment or harm to marine species, and develop a waterbody crossing schedule that identifies when trenching and blasting would occur;
  • Downeast would implement its Upland Erosion Control, Revegetation, and Maintenance Plan, Wetland and Waterbody Construction and Mitigation Procedures, and Soil Erosion and Sediment Control Guidelines to minimize impacts on soils, wetlands, and waterbodies; and
  • environmental inspection and monitoring would ensure compliance with the mitigation measures that would become conditions if the project is authorized by the Commission.

The FERC Commissioners will take into consideration staff’s recommendations when they make a decision on the Project.

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