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Interior Department Raises Environmental Concerns About Oregon LNG

The U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) has submitted a 16-page summary of comments to FERC expressing "considerable concerns" about potential environmental and other impacts from the proposed Oregon LNG project seeking to export gas from a spot at the mouth of the Columbia River. Sources tied to the backers of the project dismissed the DOI concerns.

At issue is the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff for the LNG export terminal and associated natural gas pipeline pipeline. Concerns related to the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail and national park overseen by the National Parks Service (NPS). Allison O'Brien, DOI regional environmental administrator, raised issues of potential natural and cultural resource impacts.

O'Brien said DOI's analysis of the DEIS concluded that the project as currently designed "would likely" have adverse impacts on national park visitors, "as well as natural, cultural and scenic resources." A source close to the Oregon LNG project backers told NGI on Tuesday that this isn't the case; "there's truly no story here."

Separately, a competing Oregon LNG project that recently received its final FERC EIS, Jordan Cove, filed with FERC last Thursday to raise the maximum capacity on its proposed project from 292 Bcf to 350 Bcf, or closer to 1 Bcf/d -- from 6 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) to 6.8 mtpa. Veresen Inc. officials who are sponsoring Jordan Cove noted that the final EIS recognized the higher volumes, but its earlier export authorizations used the lower original capacity.

For Oregon LNG's project, DOI commented on nine areas, including safety, the transmission pipeline, cultural resources and noise. O'Brien's submittal to FERC said the proposed terminal site and part of the new pipeline are located along the national historic trail maintained by the NPS.

DOI recommended that more alternatives be considered to eliminate or minimize national park impacts. Specifically it makes three recommendations for the FEIS:

  • Detail how recreational users will be excluded from construction zones, signage, buoys and patrol boats;
  • Provide more details on how nonmotorized boats will continue to be able to use the Lower Columbia Water Trail; and
  • Conduct a joint applicant-government survey of visitors to determine if they would change their visitation patterns based on construction and operation schedules.

DOI encouraged FERC staff ultimately "to conduct a site visit of Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail and the national park to experience the historical, natural, cultural and scenic resources that warranted Congressional action to protect them (1958, 1978, 2002 and 2005)."

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