Feds Find Seven Reasons to Say No to LNG
by Cassandra Profita
The Daily Astorian, January 21, 2008
Fisheries Service scientists worry about environmental impacts of Bradwood proposal
The National Marine Fisheries Service wants the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to deny a critical permit for the Bradwood Landing liquefied natural gas project.
Bradwood Landing project developer NorthernStar Natural Gas needs the Corps approval to dredge 46 acres of the Columbia River to create a turning basin for LNG tankers at the terminal site 20 miles east of Astoria. Corps approvals are also needed for the company's plans to fill 13 acres of wetlands and waterways in Oregon, though ultimately the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will need to issue a license before the company can begin construction on a $600 million LNG receiving terminal and 36-mile send-out pipeline.
In an eight-page letter sent last month, Michael Tehan, director of the NMFS Oregon State Habitat Office, cited seven central reasons the Corps should deny the company's permit application. Among other concerns, he said the project "appears inconsistent" with salmon recovery plans.
"Billions of dollars have been spent on salmon and steelhead recovery in the Columbia River basin," Tehan wrote, noting that Endangered Species Act recovery plans for the river's 13 listed species recommend that their habitat be protected and enhanced.
"This includes the very habitat proposed for loss or modification by the subject project," he wrote.
One of Tehan's concerns was the difference between the description of the Bradwood project on the Corps' public notice and descriptions used in other applications submitted by NorthernStar to county, state and federal agencies. The public comment period on Bradwood's Corps application ended Friday. Given confusion over the project description, Tehan said the Corps should consider starting over with the application process. He said his agency would be willing to reconsider its recommendation to deny the application "once the proposed action description has been established, including actions to mitigate for all adverse impacts."
Joe Desmond, vice president of external affairs for NorthernStar, said the confusion over project descriptions is "a process issue," that will be resolved as his company submits supplemental information to NMFS. NMFS is conducting an Endangered Species Act consultation with NorthernStar as part of a review of the project's impacts to ESA-listed species. He doesn't think his company will have to resubmit its application to the Corps.
Tehan said Bradwood's "significant project effects likely include extensive dredging, filling of off-channel aquatic habitat and the 100-year floodplain, modification and chronic disturbance of nearshore habitat and alteration of riparian and estuarine habitat."
But a mitigation plan for the project's impacts isn't finished yet, he said, so NMFS can't determine whether environmental impacts will be offset.
"At present the proposed action remains in flux and therefore the functions lost or adversely affected because of impacts to aquatic resources cannot be fully determined," he wrote.
Some project impacts have no mitigation proposed to correct them, he said, and the impacts of related actions such as the second phase of the Palomar Gas Transmission pipeline, which would receive natural gas from the Bradwood terminal, "are not well understood at present." Also, he said, alternatives to the project haven't been fully explored.
"The need for this volume of natural gas to service the Pacific Northwest has not been convincingly demonstrated," he wrote.
Tehan said the Corps needs to figure out if the receiving pipeline in Washington, owned by Williams Northwest Pipeline Corp., can handle the gas coming out of the Bradwood Landing terminal.
"Failure to do so would seriously call into question whether the proposed project can meet its stated purpose," he wrote.
Also, if the Williams pipeline needs modifications to accommodate the regassified LNG, "the Corps should consider the impacts of any modifications in its analysis of impacts."
Dan Serres of the LNG opponent group Columbia Riverkeeper said NMFS reinforced frustration that his group was feeling while trying to comment on the Bradwood application to the Corps.
"This letter from NOAA stands out as a stark indictment of Bradwood's inability to settle on a project design and the huge amount of public confusion regarding the comment period that (ended Friday)," said Serres. "We - and presumably everyone else including NMFS - don't know whether comments to agencies should be based on the (Clatsop County land-use) application, the (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) application, or the Corps application - all of which are inconsistent with one another."
Fisheries Agency will Explain Estuary Plan by Erik Robinson, The Columbian, 1/26/8
learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs