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Tuesday, April 24, 2018
HomePolitics and PolicyAlaska gasline agency gets ‘tough love’ from federal regulators

Alaska gasline agency gets ‘tough love’ from federal regulators

THIS IS NOT THE REPORT CARD AGDC WAS HOPING FOR

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission isn’t coddling the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation anymore. And it’s not giving the AKLNG project a trophy for participation.

In fact, FERC dished out a helping of “tough love” to Alaska’s gasline project last week.

Hawkins

In a long and detailed Feb. 15 letter to AGDC, FERC told the State of Alaska that its January answers to 801 questions FERC had asked in August were not up to grade level.

“To date, only minimal drafts, and in most cases just outlines, of these plans have been provided, and/or the development of the plans have been deferred to a later date…” FERC complained about the quality and completeness of AGDC’s responses to questions.

This was like the parent-teacher conference from hell: Johnny’s work was “unsatisfactory.”

FERC went on to say that an application that lacked answers to specific questions “will be considered incomplete.”

And without a complete application, there will be no ‘social promotion’ to a permit.

In addition, the federal authority said that AGDC must go back and do the engineering analysis and environmental workup for routing the gasline to either Valdez or Port MaKenzie. Right now, it’s headed to Nikiski, a destination chosen back when the project was being led by the commercial partners, not the State of Alaska.

That request alone is asking the State to scope out two more huge projects.

Last week’s letter and request for information from FERC is 170 pages long. The ask is enormous.

But the key point is that FERC says it has asked for specifics and has received generalities or a “none of your business” type answer from AGDC. And it’s clear that FERC is not amused.

The federal regulatory body is asserting that it needs studies that AGDC doesn’t think it needs, such as sediment modeling and health impact assessment.

According to the federal agency, if AGDC keeps sending back “not applicable” answers, FERC will keep sending the questions back, wrote James Martin, the project’s point person at FERC. This could go on for a while, if AGDC really thinks it can wear out the patience of the federal regulator.

“Per these regulations, I am informing you that any response from AGDC that states, ‘the information is not required by the state or other agency and will not be provided’ will be considered incomplete and reissued. Incomplete responses and the reissuances of requests for information will affect the schedule for completing the environmental review,” FERC’s Martin wrote.

“Rather than providing specific avoidance and mitigation measures to be adopted or describing potential considerations if the construction schedule cannot be maintained, AGDC has deferred providing information to future plans or the permitting phase (e.g., through Alaska Department of Fish & Game Fish Habitat permit application or other processes). It is imperative that the information provided in AGDC’s responses include definitive commitments to implement specific avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures. Incomplete information or ill-defined commitments by AGDC may compromise our ability to adequately assess and disclose the full impact of the Project.”

Martin is making it pretty clear that his agency is in control and has no intention of advancing the draft environmental impact statement without everything he has asked for.

FERC demanded that a complete response to its request for information should come within 20 days of the Feb. 15 letter. If information is not available, then FERC implied that preparation of the draft environmental impact statement would be likely be impacted: “You should be aware that the information described in the enclosure is necessary for us to continue preparation of the draft environmental impact statement.”

WHAT EXACTLY DOES FERC STILL NEED FROM AGDC?

AGDC’s original application to FERC contained 50,000 pages of material, including maps, engineering and design.

But FERC has given AGDC an 289-item punch list to complete, where it says AGDC’s original application fell short. The  items needed are complex and will require time and money.

For example, the first item on the punch list is broken into eight parts:

a. Wildlife Avoidance and Interaction Plan (see also Wildlife data requests). Provide confirmation that AGDC would incorporate the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s (FWS) Polar Bear Interaction Guidelines (Non-Department of Interior Guidelines, November 2010) and Polar Bear Deterrence Guidelines (last updated March 2017) into the Project-specific Wildlife Avoidance and Interaction Plan.

b. Marine Mammals Monitoring and Mitigation Plan (see also Marine Mammal data requests)

c. Revised Restoration Plan (see also Vegetation and Soils data requests)

d. Groundwater Monitoring Plan (see also Groundwater data requests)

e. Noxious/Invasive Plant and Animal Control Plan

f. Fugitive Dust Plan (see also Soils data requests)

g. Public Land Use and Recreational Use Coordination Plans, or the equivalent, to provide site-specific information on each of these areas proposed to be crossed and measures to reduce impacts on these areas. The response to data request No. 17 for Resource Report 8, dated December 29, 2017, indicated that AGDC would develop these plans after the final environmental impact statement (EIS), but before construction. However, FERC needs site-specific information on the construction and operation of the proposed facilities in these areas, as well as measures to reduce impacts, in order to complete the draft EIS.

h. Site-specific plans for residences within 50 feet of Project workspaces. The response to data request No. 10 for Resource Report 8, dated December 29, 2017, indicated that AGDC would develop these plans prior to construction. FERC requires these plans to complete the draft EIS in order to provide all affected landowners the opportunity to comment on the plans.

CAN AGDC DO IT IN 20 DAYS?

On Nov. 16, AGDC ‘got out over its skis’ and asked FERC to speed up review and take action on its application. It believed it would get an environmental impact statement in 12 months for the biggest permitted project in North American history.

But the State agency had not even submitted its answers to the 801 questions it received from FERC after filing its application in April.

In December, AGDC President Meyer wrote that the agency had “asked federal officials to publish a schedule for Alaska LNG’s Environmental Impact Statement process immediately.”

That is an unusual ask, since the federal agency was still waiting for its 801 answers.

And in January, the Alaska agency said it had given FERC its final answers and postured that it was ready to go: “AGDC expects FERC will determine they now have the information necessary to complete their analysis and will soon publish a schedule for the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process in the federal register that outlines the activities over the next year to develop a draft EIS and a final EIS. The outcome of this NEPA process will be a FERC order that authorizes AGDC to construct Alaska LNG.”

In January, Meyer characterized his agency’s status as having achieved a milestone: “Today’s accomplishment, on top of recent commercial agreements, is a clear signal to the markets that Alaska LNG is on track to deliver energy stability at competitive prices by 2024/2025.”

That was not how FERC saw it.

FERC’s Feb. 15 response to AGDC was sobering in both its tone and in the scope of items still missing from the application. The Chinese ‘investors’ will, no doubt, be taking a keen interest.

To date, AGDC and the Governor’s Office have issued no response to the letter that has, for the moment, left them speechless.

[Read: Larry Persily on gasline hits speed bump]

Big reveal: Alaska gasline deal is on with China

 

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Good News! Not that I ever really thought Walker would get his Pipedream Pipeline, I also don’t want China owning all the interests in the AK LNG pipeline if we were to get one built.
    It looks like the Feds aren’t happy at all with the Walker Adm answers on the permit application either, all the while ripping off the people’s PFD.
    That ‘would be’ project is dead in the water! As Walker will be gone in November.
    But I bet he doesn’t stop wasting millions of the State’s dollars on it though.
    Gov Bill Walker is the most piss poor Governor I’ve ever witnessed, in any state I’ve ever lived in. And I’ve lived in a lot of states in my life.

    • Well said.

    • I think that China owning so much interest in our lng could be a National Security risk as well.

  • Little Billie Walkers PET gas line project is in chaos just like his term in office!

    • LMAO! So true.

  • In 2008 as a candidate for Vice President, then Guv Sarah Palin said that gasline construction was already underway. It must be done by now. These FERC matters must involve something else.

    Oh, I must be confused: I must have confused the massive blast from current Guv Walker’s mouth to be natural gas flowing from the North Slope. You must admit, the quantity is about the same.

  • Two events quite related to one another need to happen in order for an Alaska gas line to be seriously considered by people who could actually afford to build it and by people who actually own the known reserves of North Slope natural gas. World gas prices need to triple from current levels. The outlook for world gas prices needs to be one of long-term scarcity being the conventional wisdom. Absent those two changes every dollar spent on this Walker mirage is of course wasted. Even if Walker became an honest broker in this issue he would not be among the first to know if these two essential changes had occurred.

  • The Governor of Alaska, in essence the CEO of AGDC, is a Trial Attorney. He’s made himself a millionaire by coaching people to provide non-specific answers to specific questions. Then a small majority of Alaskans were duped into voting him as Governor. After changing the curtains in the master bedroom of the Governor’s Mansion, he promptly forced all the major engineering and technical talent out of any potential gasline development, and in their place installed people who think like him, or at the very least, could be easily taught to think like him.

    It is no small wonder that we are where we are with this fiasco. Let this, too, hang around his neck in November. If the Senate Majority had any stones at all, they would force his hand, return the $100M stolen from Public Safety in 2017, and watch his legacy burn.

  • Why would Walker, a Crypto-Democrat, sabotage a pipeline with one of the most pro-energy administrations the United States has ever seen? Hmmmmm.

  • My question is where did all that money go? Playing naive & stupid is not going to cut it anymore. Several people need to go to prison for using taxpayer money for personal gain.