FERC issues final EIS for LNG project near Baltimore

Nick Snow
Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 8 -- The US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission identified additional adverse environmental impacts as it issued a final environmental impact statement (EIS) on Dec. 5 for a proposed LNG project outside Baltimore.

However the staff said such impacts would be "mostly limited" from the LNG import terminal and associated pipeline. The conclusion in the final EIS was similar to one reached in its draft EIS of the project Apr. 25, which noted that AES Corp. plans to build the terminal within an industrial port setting at Sparrows Point. The facility would be capable of storing up to 480,000 cu m of LNG with a base-load send-out rate of 1.5 bcfd of revaporized natural gas, FERC said.

Maryland state and local government officials have expressed opposition to the project, saying it would bring LNG tankers up Chesapeake Bay and potentially disrupt Baltimore Harbor vessel traffic. Two members of the state's congressional delegation said Dec. 5 that they were not satisfied with FERC's final EIS.

US Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) said on Dec. 5 that the number of recommended mitigation measures grew to 179 in the latest document from 151 in the draft EIS. "I remain firmly opposed to a new LNG facility at Sparrows Point. For over 2 years, I have repeatedly raised my safety, security and environmental concerns about this LNG facility and pipeline. I am deeply disappointed that FERC continues to rubber stamp a project that our state is adamantly opposed to," she declared.

Rep. C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger said, "This is a tough setback, but I will not give up the fight to stop the proposed LNG facility from coming to eastern Baltimore County. I have said from the very beginning this proposed liquefied natural gas plant is absolutely inappropriate for this residential area." The final EIS "ignores the safety of nearby residents who would live in the shadow of the facility," he charged.

More mitigation action
FERC's staff said in the final EIS that the US Coast Guard's waterway suitability report for the project has "preliminarily determined" that additional recommended mitigation measures would be needed to make the Patapsco River, Chesapeake Bay, and territorial seas suitable for LNG marine traffic to the proposed terminal site and responsibly manage marine and safety risks.

"Along the marine transit route, potential impacts, thought short-term, could be significant to boaters and fishermen by interfering with their normal and accustomed practices of using the Chesapeake Bay and Patapsco River," it conceded.

AES would need to coordinate with the Port of Baltimore and with special boating interest groups to minimize disruption of scheduled annual maritime events, the final EIS suggested. "Coordination with the Coast Guard's Marine Event Permit Office would be necessary since events may require LNG vessels to adjust their transit . . . We have also recommended that AES work with the Coast Guard and Patuxent River Naval Air Station during development of its transit management plan," it said.

FERC's final EIS also said the proposed project's construction would have a temporary impact on about 1,801 acres of land. There are no existing residences within a mile of the planned terminal, but the proposed pipeline would cross within 50 ft of 179 residences and 56 other buildings, it indicated.

Mid-Atlantic Express LLC, the AES division that proposes to lay an 88-mile pipeline from the LNG terminal to Eagle, Pa., has filed site-specific plans for residences within 25 ft of construction, the final EIS said. But FERC's staff found that the plans lacked detail and sufficient mitigation measures, it added. "Pipeline construction could also affect wells and septic systems; therefore, we have recommended that Mid-Atlantic Express file site-specific plans for residences within 50 ft of the pipeline construction work space as well as measures for mitigating impacts to wells, septic systems, and other utilities," it said.

Camps, parks, trails
The pipeline's construction also could have adverse impacts on several camps, parks, and trails, it continued. "Many of the construction impacts would be temporary; however some scenic watersheds would be permanently impacted," it said.

AES would be required to develop and implement an emergency response plan, which would involve state and local agencies and municipalities, including a cost-sharing plan and a transit management plan, according to the final EIS. The company also would have to meet requirements of FERC, the Coast Guard and other federal agencies.

Ruppersberger said the Coast Guard issued a report earlier this year which found that AES does not appear to take security seriously and assumes that the Coast Guard will handle all security at taxpayer expense. "In addition, the company . . . wants Maryland taxpayers to foot much of the bill for any security changes that may need to be implemented. This is unfair because the natural gas will be pumped out of state," he said.

FERC's final EIS said the Coast Guard's Feb. 25 Waterway Suitability Report identifies specific risk mitigation measures that would be needed to responsibly manage maritime safety and security risks. "Accordingly, we have recommended that the proposed facility comply with all requirements set forth by the Coast Guard," it said.

FERC noted that since the draft EIS was issued in late April, US Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez issued a finding that the project, if approved, would be consistent with the Coastal Zone Management Act, as necessary for the establishment of safety and security zones for LNG traffic in Maryland and Virginia waters.

FERC said commissioners would consider the staff's recommendations in the final EIS when they make a final decision on the proposed project.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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