An abundance of interest in Liberty Natural Gas' long-running proposal for a deepwater liquefied natural gas (LNG) importation port off the coast of New York has drawn so much comment that regulators said they need more time to evaluate the input as well as gather more information.
The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and the Maritime Administration (MARAD) told Liberty in a March 17 letter made public online Tuesday that "due to the substantial public and governmental interest in this project, we have an affirmative obligation to ensure all reasonable comments are properly considered and responded to [USCG-2013-0363]."
Additionally, for consideration of the Port Ambrose project to proceed, the agencies need more information from Liberty on financial responsibility, which is due by the end of March. An analysis of Clean Air Act compliance is still being compiled, they said.
Port Ambrose would include a subsea natural gas pipeline that would be buried under the ocean floor. While the recently released draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the project analyzed a pipeline that would be buried seven feet deep, new U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' requirements are for burial at 15 feet deep, another factor delaying project evaluation and a final EIS, USCG and MARAD said.
The Port Ambrose pipeline would run from the terminal to a point off Jones Beach, NY. From there the pipeline would connect to an existing Transcontinental Gas Pipeline lateral that runs to Long Island and then connects with the National Grid East system.
Liberty filed its latest plan for Port Ambrose with regulators almost two years ago after withdrawing a previous proposal made in 2010 (see Daily GPI, July 15, 2013; April 27, 2012; Nov. 3, 2010). At the time, Liberty said the terminal would be sited east of its previously planned location, with capability to receive about 45 LNG carrier deliveries per year, compared with 10-12 deliveries in its previous application.
In an era of shale gas abundance and numerous projects planned to export liquefied domestic natural gas, Port Ambrose would seem to be out of step with the times. Not so, Liberty said Tuesday. In fact, the controversy over hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the United States appears to have given Liberty a new selling point for Port Ambrose.
"The fact is we have always viewed the Port Ambrose project as an alternative to fracking," said Liberty CEO Roger Whelan. "We will be importing traditional natural gas (non-fracked) from conventional large gas fields in Trinidad and elsewhere. This project is entirely consistent with Gov. [Andrew] Cuomo's recent ban on fracking in New York State. Port Ambrose proves that you can supply New York State with cleaner, cheaper natural gas that is not the result of fracking."
According to Liberty, Port Ambrose would reduce energy bills for downstate New York consumers by $325 million each year.
USCG and MARAD said their "stop clock" order on the project review is in effect until they receive data requested and the final EIS and final licensing hearing are published in the Federal Register.