Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry
October 2019

Vol. 24, No.43 Week of October 27, 2019

Mat-Su continues fight for Port MacKenzie, citing Corps comments

Kristen Nelson

Petroleum News

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission continues to hear opposition to and support for the route of the Alaska LNG project to a liquefied natural gas facility in Nikiski, the project analyzed in the draft environmental impact statement FERC issued earlier this year, and on which it has been taking public comments.

The agency has two requests for supplemental DEISs (see stories in Oct. 6 and Oct. 13 issues of Petroleum News), both of which argue that an alternative was not adequately evaluated, one from Valdez, which favors a route along the right of way of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline to an LNG facility in Valdez - the other from the Matanuska-Susitna Borough for a line terminating at Port MacKenzie on the west side of Cook Inlet, with an LNG facility there.

Alaska Gasline Development Corp., the project proponent, responded to the Mat-Su request for issuance of a supplemental DEIS, arguing that the borough “mischaracterizes the facts.”

AGDC said the Port MacKenzie alternative is described and evaluated in the DEIS and proposes that Mat-Su “is merely commenting about where in the DEIS this analysis is found.”

Mat-Su argued that a pipeline terminating at Port MacKenzie would meet project objectives; AGDC said that while the project objectives don’t specifically include a Kenai Peninsula connection to the Enstar system, a terminus on the Kenai with a connection to Enstar is encompassed by the project objective of providing gas interconnections and gas to users in the state. With a terminus at Nikiski, AGDC argues, the system would connect to both ends of the Enstar system, at Beluga on the west and in Nikiski on the east, enhancing Enstar’s “ability to balance its system and serve the high demand for natural gas in Anchorage and surrounding areas.”

Mat-Su cites Corps

Mat-Su responded to AGDC’s comments, and those of the Kenai Peninsula Borough, saying it wanted to “correct certain errors” in those comments and citing comments by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, noting the Corps has said the DEIS Alternatives Analysis “contains certain statements that may be ‘inaccurate,’ ‘misleading,’” and even indicate bias on FERC’s part for the proposed plan.

The Corps, a cooperating agency, also needs to issue its own permits under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, that agency said in the Oct. 3 comments. The Corps’ comments cover a range of issues from a question whether a reference to BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. should be revised to Hilcorp to identifying typographical errors in the DEIS to requests for clarification of terms such as unlikely and requests for more specifics.

On alternatives, the Corps notes that related to Port MacKenzie: It does not annually dredge the Knik Shoal, although, it said, it does monitor the shoal to assess the need for dredging.

Among the Corps’ requests for clarification it asks FERC to explain why the additional distance to Port MacKenzie would require 12 additional vessel transits annually. “Would not the same size LNG carriers be transiting to a Port MacKenzie facility? If not, why not?”

The comments also cite a sentence which begins: “The proposed Project is superior in certain other …” saying “use of the word ‘superior’ indicates an extreme bias on FERC’s part for the proposed Project. The Corps recommends the use of a more neutral word or phrase such as, ‘more beneficial,’ or ‘has less impacts to other specific resources than the Port MacKenzie Alternative.’”

The Corps also discusses a statement on Beluga whale impacts which asserts they would be greater with the Port MacKenzie Alternative and “would persist for the life of the Project as opposed to the short-term impact presented by the Cook Inlet pipeline construction for the proposed route,” calling the statement “an inaccurate, or misleading, summary of Beluga whale impacts.”

The Corps said the FERC discussion of the impact on Beluga whales was based on a statistical analysis of the probability of whale strikes and construction in habitat critical to the Belugas.

The Corps told FERC: “Your summary makes it seem as though after construction of the Cook Inlet crossing, impacts to beluga whales would cease for the proposed Project; however, there is still a potential for beluga whale vessel strikes in that location.” The FERC summary should acknowledge this, the Corps said, “but should also state the probability of vessel strikes is significantly lower than that of the Port MacKenzie Alternative location.”

The DEIS cites the marine environment at Port MacKenzie - high tidal fluctuations, related strong current, ice foes - as a limiting factor. The Corps requested “further discussion in this analysis about the conditions at the site, what measures would be needed in order to operate there safely due to those conditions, and whether or not implementation of those measures are reasonable and practicable.”


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