The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has less than 11 months to finalize regulations for new liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities in the state, a task made more challenging after receiving thousands of public comments, including many from those opposed to high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF).
The DEC is required to provide a written response to all of the public comments it received for its proposal, officially known as the Part 570 addition to Title 6 of the New York Codes, Rules and Regulations. The deadline for public comment was Wednesday.
Part 570 would, among other things, establish permit requirements and application procedures for LNG facilities, outline site inspections and training for local fire department personnel, and explain intrastate and interstate transportation requirements for LNG within the state.
The DEC's proposal would not apply to compressed natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas facilities in the state, and would not require permits for vehicles or vessels fueled by LNG. However, LNG fueling stations would face new regulations.
A moratorium on new LNG fueling and storage facilities was enacted by the state legislature in 1978, partly in response to an explosion that occurred on Feb. 10, 1973. Forty workers were killed after an explosion blew the concrete roof off an LNG tank at a Texas Eastern Transmission Corp. facility on Staten Island.
The moratorium was lifted on April 1, 1999 for all municipalities except those with a population of one million or more -- essentially, just New York City. The legislature has extended the ban every two years, most recently in May, when it was extended to April 1, 2015.
DEC spokesman Peter Constantakes told Daily GPI that the agency has until Oct. 30, 2014 -- one year after the last public hearing on the matter -- to respond to the public comments and finalize the LNG regulations. The DEC unveiled the proposal in September (see Daily GPI,Sept. 27).
"Those opposed to fracking had a big conference and delivered what they estimated were 50,000 comments to us," Constantakes said Friday. "We haven't gotten through them all, but there were boxes and boxes. It's definitely in the thousands, perhaps tens of thousands."
Constantakes said the proposed LNG regulations were "a completely separate issue" from the ongoing de facto moratorium on HVHF.
"There really isn't a correlation between the two," Constantakes said. "We have told people we would move forward with these regulations regardless of whether HVHF is ever approved or disapproved. These have nothing to do at all with the production of gas.
"The people who are against HVHF say that this is another way that gas would become a greater part of New York's infrastructure. That's why they're concerned. They think this would increase demand, which would then possibly increase pressure to get more gas through fracking."
The environmental group New Yorkers Against Fracking (NYAF) posted several pictures to its Facebook page on Wednesday, showing what it said were boxes containing more than 50,000 comments to the DEC over its LNG proposal. In a statement from Oct. 30, NYAF spokesman Keith Schue urged the agency to withdraw them.
"Considering New York's history of disaster with LNG, it is absolutely shocking that the DEC would put forth rules that are so devoid of regulatory content," Schue said. "These regs support a virtual smorgasbord of fracking infrastructure. The only responsible course of action now is for DEC to withdraw these regulations and start over."
Constantakes said the DEC estimates that if the regulations are finalized, there may be 21 new LNG fueling stations in the state within five years.