Environmental groups have embarked on a complex effort at various state and federal agencies to stop an affiliate of New Fortress Energy LLC from developing a small-scale natural gas export terminal in New Jersey along the Delaware River.
The Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN) has worked in recent months to reveal information about the facility scattered across various agencies that it said wasn’t properly shared with the public.
At the DRN’s request, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Tuesday reopened a public comment period for the project’s permit under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. DRN is also pushing the Delaware River Basin Commision (DRBC), a quasi-regulatory agency involving four states and the U.S. government that oversees the Delaware River watershed, to reconsider its approval last month of an expansion at the proposed facility. The expansion would enable the transfer of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from trucks to ships for export.
A DRBC spokesman said the commission is currently reviewing that request. Maya van Rossum, who leads DRN, told NGI that the organization is “certainly prepared to go to court” if DRBC doesn’t grant a hearing to reconsider its approval. DRN said the commission violated its governing compact when it approved the project without having more information about the possible impacts.
New Fortress affiliate Delaware River Partners LLC in 2017 requested a waterway suitability assessment from the U.S. Coast Guard, saying in a letter that it wanted to construct a multi-use, deep-water port and logistics center for a variety of uses, including the handling of automobiles, other bulk freight, and LNG and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). The company told the Coast Guard that the terminal would have an LNG export capacity of 1.5 million metric tonnes/year and an LPG export capacity of 9.6 million bbl/year.
DRN and other environmental groups contend that the company failed to share its plans for LNG at the proposed facility in Gloucester County, which would be called the Gibbstown Logistics Center. DRBC’s initial approval of the project included only plans for LPG export from one dock, van Rossum said.
The Army Corps on Tuesday said it was reopening the comment period so the public could weigh in on additional information included in the notice. The Army Corps said LNG would arrive at the site via trucks carrying 12,000 gallons of product each. The LNG would then be pumped from a second dock to vessels in the port for export. The planned use of railcars to bring additional volumes in has not yet been approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Army Corps said in the public comment notice.
“The other agencies could have, should have known, and at this point they certainly do know,” van Rossum said of the company’s plans for LNG exports. “So, we consider this a classic case of segmentation because now” Delaware River Partners has come back and said “‘now that you’ve approved this, we’re just going to add on this relatively little piece and from this dock we’re going to be doing LNG exports.’”
DRBC spokesman Peter Eschbach said the commission has little control over what the company would handle at the facility. “Generally, DRBC jurisdiction for this project is for the dock construction and the river dredging,” he told NGI. “We don’t have authority over cargo.”
New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel indicated that the company could face more resistance throughout the permitting process as both the state Department of Environmental Protection and FERC must also approve it. DRN has already filed an appeal with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission over a Freedom of Information Act request for documents about the project that it said wasn’t fulfilled.
New Fortress, which went public earlier this year, is developing two small-scale liquefaction projects in Northeast Pennsylvania that would have a combined capacity of 7.3 million gallons/d, according to a prospectus it filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission ahead of its initial public offering.
Site work is underway on the first facility in the Marcellus Shale hotbed of Bradford County, with construction expected to start next year. A dedicated tanker truck fleet would transport the LNG to the Delaware River site so that ships can take it to the company’s terminals for distribution, according to the prospectus. The company could not be reached to comment about the project.
New Fortress is focused on introducing LNG in markets that lack access to the fuel. It already operates a 100,000 gallon/d liquefier in Miami and an offshore terminal in Jamaica, along with a fuel handling facility in Puerto Rico. The company had a total of 14 projects under development at the end of the first quarter, including those in Pennsylvania and others in Ireland and Mexico.
In the Appalachian Basin, small-scale LNG facilities are gaining importance given the natural gas supply glut, especially in rural areas. Northeast LNG exports are also likely to remain flat at about 700 MMcf/d for the foreseeable future as Dominion Energy Inc.’s larger single-train Cove Point export terminal in Maryland is fully subscribed.