Wednesday, April 23, 2008

After New York's Rejection of Broadwater, FERC Gets Petition to Reverse its Approval

New York State, Connecticut and others have filed petitions with the Federal Energy Regulatory commission, saying that in the aftermath of New York’s rejection of Broadwater, FERC should reverse the decision it made in March approving Broadwater. Here’s what Newsday reported:

... state and local officials on both sides of the Sound are, in effect, trying to buy some insurance by getting the project's March 20 approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission overturned on the grounds of potential environmental damage to the Sound and a contention that the commission violated federal law by making its decision before New York State officials had made theirs.



"The state is trying to insure that its decision is properly respected by [the commission]," Paul DeCotis, New York's deputy energy secretary, said yesterday. The state contends that the commission's March 20 decision is moot because one of the conditions accompanying that permit was New York State's approval -- now denied. "By definition, de facto, because the state [disapproved], the [commission] license is no longer granted," he said.


New York’s decision made the Shell, TransCanada and Broadwater people unhappy, naturally, but it also made people in New Jersey unhappy, because it suggested a site in the Atlantic, off the Jersey shore, as an alternative. From the Asbury Park Press:

"If it's not good enough for Long Island Sound, it's sure as hell isn't good enough for our "Clean Ocean Zone,' " said Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action, a Sandy Hook-based coalition that organized the rally.

That seems fair enough to me, as long as they make their case as strongly and cogently as the anti-Broadwater people did.

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8 Comments:

Anonymous Bryan said...

OK, so as soon as CCE and SOS sit down and hash out the Islander East pipeline situation (presumably with SOS agreeing with CCE that Islander East should proceed), I expect CCE to sit down with Clean Ocean Action and explain to them why their arguments against BlueOcean and Atlantic Sea Island are all wet. And, given that FERC cannot be relied upon to do a do a decent EIS on either project, it will be up to the environmental groups to make the case that the projects' environmental impacts are manageable.

CCE's to-do list is growing.

5:39 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

To me a permit in federal waters way off New Jersey is a completely different matter than Broadwater in the middle of Long Island Sound and NY state waters.

So if somebody proposes an offshore LNG facility in federal waters that is a completely different ball game. The state can only debate the gas pipelines and shore terminals, not the terminal itself.

Yes, as citizens we can protest a federal permit in federal waters but my understanding is that the technology would be far easier in terms of thermal management, impacts on fisheries, and so forth. In fact, such a terminal could improve fishing by creating an artificial reef. But sure, some environmental group is going to protest because they don't want anything out there, nada,

Want to hear something cool and weird, possibly dangerous? Well, that area off New Jersey has been an ammo dump and target practice area since before WWII. Tons of unexploded ordinance out there ...

11:51 PM  
Anonymous Bryan said...

Sam,
You're right. I shouldn't have referred to FERC. MARAD has jurisdiction on deepwater ports and will conduct the NEPA review.

As an adjacent coastal state, NJ apparently has veto power. From what I've read, it sounds like Gov. Corzine is not in favor of it, but he could just be playing to the crowd (he is in favor of the LNG port on the Delaware River). I haven't heard anything about Gov. Paterson's opinion of it.

So, Massachusett's LNG port was approved and will receive it's first cargo in May. Broadwater failed (for good reason). Safe Harbor is a possibility but NJ seems not to want it. But they do want the port on the Delaware River, but the State of Delaware doesn't want it. And on it goes.

Tom and Sam, how do you think environmental advocacy groups should address projects outside of their physical territory and/or mission? In case it hasn't been obvious, I think that once a group starts to argue for alternatives (or, starts to ignore similar projects in other nearby locations), they have an obligation to ensure that the alternatives are evaluated thoroughly and competently.

Now, alternatives are an important part of an environmental review, so environmental groups might not have a choice but to use them. But maybe discretion is the better approach and NOT arguing alternatives is preferred, unless the group is prepared get into the nitty-gritty of the particular alternative.

I'd hate to think that all environmentalism is local.

10:39 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

Good question, Bryan.

By the way I think it would be the MMS or NOAA itself that evaluates the offshore LNG terminal but am not sure - MARAD is the Maritime Administration concerned with port commerce and the Ready Reserve and Sea Lift citizen/military ships. Might be wrong but ...

OK, your question asks about the enviro movement and the CZMA (Coastal Zone Management Act). State may protest and new permit or change in a permit in offshore waters, although state powers are somewhat diluted in federal law, such as by creating a standard of proof that the proposed federal action (an offshore LNG terminal) would in fact violate a specific section of an abutting state's CZMA Plan.

If the proposed federal action was contrary to it CZMA plan (known by different names in each state), the proposed action or facility must be modified to address only those specific items. This is a little different from evaluating a project such as Broadwater which was clearly in New York State waters.

So when I say that petitioner's rights are somewhat diluted for offshore projects under CZMA review, any arguments must be of a technical nature - ones that show a clear violation of the state's CZMA plan. This is going to be tough because many enviro organizations appeal to supporters simply based on more emotional precepts (e.g., it would be ugly, smelly, kill fish, and simply can't be good for 'Mother Ocean').

So it's not like enviro success stories, such as requiring ships to have improved ballast systems and clean water discharges, especially with recent victories against cruise ships that were proven beyond a doubt to have been dumping untreated wastes in waters offshore a state (again, CZMA and other federal laws such as the Clean Water Act). I think it requires a higher standard of proof than a sire inside Long island Sound.

Finally, many of the big enviro groups such as Blue Water Action, Oceana, Environmental Defense, and others do raise these issues if they feel they can make a case in a court hearing, so no, not all action is just a local knee-jerk reaction. /sam

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Tom said...

My feeling is that if you see a fire, you dial 911. You're not then obligated to put the fire out yourself or to come up with more effective means of fire prevention. If you're able to and you know what you're doing, fine. But the most important thing is to put the fire out.

12:39 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

Well put Tom, for all my sorry prognostications. And, a flaming LNG facility and tanker at 20 miles would be ample reason to dial 911.

But I'm having trouble here ... the Freeport/Quitana Island facility just came on line in Texas and they brought in one load of LNG to cool down the tanks and pipes but apparently "that's it" for quite a while because most LNG is being sold at much higher prices to countries such as Japan in the Orient. About twice the price.

I don't know of any LNG facility getting weekly loads of LNG in the US, although perhaps I should get some more ship data to prove that point. So based on my crude understanding without the benefit of hard data I'd have to say there was ZERO demand for LNG in the US, given the supply, demand, and price.

Maybe they're visionaries. Who knows? But the ones constructed now would be "grandfathered" from any global warming regulations that could follow in the future, so maybe they have a good hedge if they complete a billion-dollar LNG terminal with all the frills.

Or it was a horrible investment and there's 200 years of natural gas right in our 48 contiguous states.
-sam

8:59 PM  
Anonymous Bryan said...

Sam,
I've also read that the LNG deliveries to the US have been less than expected because of the demand elsewhere (domestic NG prices have been relatively low compared to oil). I expect the LNG developers are figuring it's a temporary thing, with demand continuing and domestic resources fixed and declining (at least those that have been tapped).

Regardless of how crazy Shell was to try and use LIS, I do give them credit for the concept. With a FSRU, they could have moved it somewhere else if the market changed or never recovered. They would have left the mooring and pipeline, no small investment, but less than the money tied up on the FSRU(?). And whose to say that a shuttle regas vessel couldn't be used instead?

6:53 PM  
Anonymous Bryan said...

Tom,
I appreciate your fire analogy and I don't want to read more into it than you intended, but it raises other concerns. There could be lots of ways to put the fire out. Turning on a huge fan and blowing the flames into the neighboring property is one way to do it. Working with the neighbor to put the fire out is another way to do it. Then there's the fire a few plots away. It's not threatening you, so do you ignore it or do you help to fight it?

I go back to Islander East. Save the Sound is fighting a fire because Islander East apparently threatens local waterfront resources. CCE apparently doesn't see it that way; otherwise, they'd be fighting it, too.

It doesn't make sense to me. And to stretch the fire analogy to the breaking point, you have all these groups putting out fires, when the better solution might be to let some things burn, because, otherwise, it could eventually all go to go up in one big conflagration.

It suggests to me the the fundamental environmental principle is: Preserve what's in my domain, which is the only good (i.e., there is no greater good).

7:02 PM  

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