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FERC approves the first West Coast LNG Export Facility

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) gave its final environmental approval for the Jordan Cove LNG project and the Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline in Oregon, according to a FERC release. The project is the first liquefied natural gas terminal on the West Coast, and will deliver natural gas produced in the Rocky Mountains to markets in Asia.

The $7 billion project is led by Alberta based Veresen (ticker: VSN). The company saw the approval of the environmental impact assessment (EIS) as extremely positive news for the project.

“Receipt of our final EIS demonstrates our strong progress on the permitting front and paves the way for Jordan Cove LNG to be the first LNG export facility to be built on the west coast,” added Elizabeth Spomer, President and CEO of Jordan Cove LNG in a press release. “This regulatory milestone will be viewed as great news by our target customers.”

Final overall approval is expected by the end of this year, with a notice to proceed from the commission by the middle of next year. Developers have said gas is not likely to begin flowing until 2019.

The projects were initially envisioned for importing natural gas into the U.S., but development of gas deposits in the Rockies created an abundance of the fuel that pushed the projects to switch to exports.

Impacts will need to be reduced

While the FERC did give its final environmental approval, it did say the projects would result in some limited adverse environmental impacts, but these would be reduced to less-than-significant levels with the implementation of Jordan Cove’s proposed mitigation measures.

Jordan Cove

From the FERC

The FERC staff concludes that construction and operation of the projects would result in some limited adverse environmental impacts, but these impacts would be reduced to less-than-significant levels with the implementation of the applicants’ proposed mitigation measures and the additional measures recommended in the final EIS. This determination is based on a review of the information provided by Jordan Cove and Pacific Connector and further developed from data requests; field investigations; scoping; literature research; alternatives analyses; and consultations with federal, state, and local agencies, Indian tribes, and other stakeholders. In addition, the FERC staff and federal cooperating agencies developed other site-specific mitigation measures that Jordan Cove and Pacific Connector should implement to further reduce the environmental impacts that would otherwise result from construction of their projects. Although many factors were considered in this determination, the principal reasons are:

LNG marine traffic in the waterway would be required to adhere to any vessel traffic and/or facility control measures determined necessary by the Coast Guard to address navigational safety and maritime security considerations;

The final engineering design for the LNG terminal would incorporate detailed seismic specifications and other measures to protect the terminal from future earthquakes and potential tsunamis, and mitigation measures would be implemented by Pacific Connector to address landslides and other geological hazards along the pipeline route;

Jordan Cove would implement FERC’s Upland Erosion Control, Revegetation, and Maintenance Plan and our Wetland and Waterbody Construction and Mitigation Procedures, and its own Erosion and Sediment Control Plan, and Pacific Connector would implement its project-specific Erosion Control and Revegetation Plan, which would minimize impacts on soils, waterbodies, and wetlands;

Jordan Cove would implement the measures of its Project Compensatory Wetland Mitigation Plan to mitigate for the loss of wetlands, and its Wildlife Habitat Mitigation Plan to mitigate for the loss of vegetation at the terminal location;

Pacific Connector would implement the measures in its Stream Crossing Risk Analysis, Report on Preliminary Pipeline Study of the Haynes Inlet Water Route, Horizontal Directional Drill Contingency Plan and Failure Procedures, and Hydrostatic Testing Plan to minimize impacts on waterbodies, and its Integrated Pest Management Plan to minimize the potential spread of vegetative pests and noxious weeds;

The COE and Oregon Department of Environmental Quality would issue permits to Jordan Cove and Pacific Connector under the River and Harbors Act, Clean Water Act, and Clean Air Act that would contain measures to minimize impacts on water quality and air quality;

Jordan Cove and Pacific Connector would obtain a determination from Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development that the projects would be consistent with the Coast Zone Management Act;

The BLM and Forest Service would amend their respective LMPs in the appropriate Districts and National Forests to allow for the pipeline, and the BLM would issue a Right-of-Way Grant to Pacific Connector for an easement over federal lands, to be concurred with by the Forest Service and Reclamation, based on the implementation of an approved Plan of Development that includes additional measures to minimize impacts on environmental resources;

Jordan Cove and Pacific Connector would implement the measures in their Compensatory Mitigation Plan to minimize impacts on federally listed threatened and endangered species;

The FERC staff would revise its biological assessment, enter into formal consultations with the FWS and U.S. Department of Commerce National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Services would issue biological opinions that include additional conservation measures to assure that the Project would not jeopardize the continued existence of any species under their jurisdiction and would not adversely modify or destroy designated critical habitat;

Adverse effects on historic properties would be resolved through an amended project-specific Memorandum of Agreement;

The LNG terminal would meet the federal safety regulations regarding the thermal radiation and flammable vapor dispersion exclusion zones and appropriate design standards, and Pacific Connector’s natural gas facilities would also be designed, constructed, and operated in accordance with DOT safety standards; and

An environmental inspection and mitigation monitoring program would be implemented to ensure compliance with all mitigation measures that become conditions of any FERC authorization.  

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