The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission released the long-awaited draft environmental impact statement for the proposed Alaska LNG project, and the summary to the 3,764-page document is surprisingly pessimistic in its language.
The massive draft study assesses the impacts to the environment of the construction and operation of the line that would draw natural gas out of North Slope fields and convert it to liquefied natural gas for export and to provide energy for use by homes and businesses in the state.
It’s a project that the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation is tasked with getting the permits and other authorizations needed to construct, own, and operate. It includes a gas treatment plant on the North Slope, a pipeline to Nikiski, and a liquefaction plant and marine terminal.
“We conclude that Project construction and operation would result in temporary, long-term, and permanent impacts on the environment. Most impacts would not be significant or would be reduced to less than significant levels with the implementation of proposed or recommended avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures, but some impacts would be adverse and significant,” the agency wrote in its summary of the massive document, which includes numerous scientific, environmental and cultural studies.
Environmental groups pounced on that language. The draft EIS will go through a public comment period, and the agency has given them plenty to work with.
“We conclude that constructing the Project would have significant impacts on permafrost due to granular fill placement, particularly for the Mainline Pipeline facilities,” the agency wrote.
“The Project would have significant adverse impacts on wetlands from granular fill placement resulting in substantial conversions of wetlands to uplands. Significant adverse impacts on forest would result from permanent losses or conversions from installation of aboveground facilities, granular fill placement, and vegetation maintenance in the Mainline Pipeline right-of-way.
“For caribou, the impacts on the Central Arctic Herds would likely be significant due to the timing of impacts during sensitive periods, permanent impacts on sensitive habitats, and the Project location at the center of the herds’ range. During the years of simultaneous construction, startup, and operational activities at the Liquefaction Facilities, as well as during flaring events, impacts on air quality could be significant.
“Operational noise associated with the Liquefaction Facilities at the two nearest noise sensitive areas would likely double due to facility operation, which would be considered a significant increase.”
The project would have positive impacts on the state and local economy, but that would be balanced by the adverse impacts on housing, population, and public services, FERC said.
And then the summary includes the phrase “environmental justice communities.” There is no clear definition in any field as to what an “environmental justice community” is, but the federal agency is concerned that Alaska has more than one of them.
“The Project could disproportionately affect environmental justice communities due to impacts on subsistence practices and public health effects based on a Health Impact Assessment prepared by AGDC. However, these impacts are not expected to be high and adverse,” FERC wrote.
“In addition, the construction and operation is likely to adversely affect six federally listed species (spectacled eider, polar bear, bearded seal, Cook Inlet beluga whale, humpback whale, and ringed seal) and designated critical habitat for two species (polar bear and Cook Inlet beluga whale).
“Because the Project would result in substantial impacts on permafrost, wetlands, forest, and caribou (Central Arctic Herds), and since other current or reasonably foreseeable projects in the study area would similarly affect these resources, we found that cumulative impacts on these resources would or could be significant. Visual effects from the Project near the DNPP would be high, so any additional effects in this area from other projects would contribute to cumulative visual impacts, which could also be significant.”
On the upside, FERC said the project would be constructed in compliance with all applicable federal laws, regulations, permits, and authorizations, and that Cook Inlet was considered by the U.S. Coast Guard to be an appropriate site for the terminus.
The massive document has not yet been reviewed by the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation, as it was just released today, but AGDC Interim President Joe Dubler issued the following comment:
“Alaska LNG holds the potential for significant environmental, energy, economic, and employment benefits for Alaskans. Publication of the draft Environmental Impact Statement represents substantial progress toward obtaining the authorization required to build and operate this project.
“We will now begin to thoroughly examine this comprehensive document to understand the commission’s recommendations. The ongoing permitting process incorporates 150,000 pages of data and should give Alaskans confidence that the project’s merits and impacts are being rigorously scrutinized.”