The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) on Thursday voted to suspend approval for key parts of a small liquefied natural gas (LNG) export project in New Jersey. 

The DRBC, a quasi-regulatory agency involving four states and the U.S. government that oversees the Delaware River watershed, stayed the decision it made last summer allowing a New Fortress Energy LLC (NFE) affiliate to build a dock to load LNG tankers at the proposed Gibbstown Logistics Center. Commissioners suspended the approval to take “additional time to review the voluminous record in this matter…to prevent any potential harm to the basin” pending a final OK, said spokesperson Peter Eschbach.

Environmental groups have staunchly opposed the project. A petition with 50,000 signatures was delivered on Wednesday to the governors of  DRBC member states Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania that urged commissioners to reject the project. Stakeholders had been anticipating the commission to finally approve or reject the project at Thursday’s meeting.

New Fortress has released few details about the logistics center, but has said in regulatory filings it would have export capacity of 1.5 million metric tons/year and the ability to export 9.6 million bbl/year of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). It also could handle bulk freight. 

The DRBC has jurisdiction over river dredging and the dock structures only. NFE may not move ahead on such work without approval. The commission agreed last year to reconsider its approval of the second dock for LNG loading after the Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN) filed a request for rehearing. Ahead of Thursday’s vote, a hearing was held in May after which DRBC hearing officer John Kelly issued a report that found there was no need to rescind approval.  

NFE is focused on introducing LNG in markets that lack access to the fuel. The company operates/develops small-scale assets across the world, including import terminals, fuel management facilities, regasification infrastructure, gas-fired power plants and midstream facilities in the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America and the United States.

DRBC’s initial authorization for the project covered only plans for LPG export from one dock. Those opposed to the project said it wasn’t made clear that an expansion approved by the commission last summer would include a second dock for LNG exports. DRN and other groups have been working to reveal information about the facility that they argue wasn’t properly shared with the public.

NFE has a small-scale liquefaction project under development in Northeast Pennsylvania. LNG would be moved from those plants in the heart of the Marcellus Shale to the Delaware River facility by truck and rail for distribution to NFE import terminals. Late last year, an NFE affiliate received a special permit to transport LNG by rail to the New Jersey terminal in tank cars designed to carry cryogenic liquids. 

New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel welcomed DRBC’s decision to stay approval, noting it would give opponents more time to stop the project completely.