Friday, August 26, 2011

PASSAMAQUODDY BAY: Downeast LNG — where does it stand?

(Aug 18) — Calais Advertiser, Calais, ME

[Note: As presented at]

At one time there were three liquid (sic) natural gas [LNG] proposals for this area. Over time two of those proposals have fallen by the wayside for one reason or another. Downeast LNG, the second one on the scene, is the only one remaining.

Girdis said one of the current holdups deals with permits relating to vapor-gas exclusion zone (sic). "FERC [Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] had stipulated that no project, Downeast and all the others that are export oriented, can proceed forward to permit approval or construction, depending where they are in the permitting process until the new vapor models are developed," he said.

[FERC External Affairs spokesperson Tamara Young Allen said,] "We're basically saying the project is still pending before FERC." "But, until DOT completes its process the project here will continue to be pending. Our staff will prepare a revised draft Environmental Impact Statement [EIS] (sic) to include the new information from DOT."

Girdis said he anticipates finalization of the GIS (sic; EIS) early in 2012 with work to begin in the fall of that year. [Red, yellow, & bold emphasis added.]

Webmaster’s Comments: It is interesting that the Calais Advertiser considers Calais LNG to be dead. Even though that project has no money and no project site, it remains in the FERC permitting process.

It is also interesting that Dean Girdis stated that the vapor-gas dispersion model issue is just one of the current holdups to Downeast LNG.

Downeast LNG anticipates EIS (Draft EIS, or Final EIS?) completion in 2012; however, Dean Girdis is overlooking another gorilla staring at him from the corner — the US DOT has not yet addressed the flawed thermal radiation exclusion zone model that FERC failed to notify DOT of way back in 2009.

Just as the vapor-gas dispersion model required reconstruction, so does the thermal radiation model. And, from independent research submitted to FERC demonstrating critical false assumptions in the current model, it appears that the current model's shortcomings indicate Downeast LNG's terminal site is severely undersized, with no way to expand it to accommodate the required exclusion zone.

The thermal radiation model flaws (and FERC's 2009 violation of responsibility to inform the DOT of those flaws) is now on the US DOT's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration (PHMSA) docket (PHMSA-2011-0159) for consideration.

As far back as 2006, or earlier, the Government of Canada warned Downeast LNG and the other local terminal proposals to relocate outside of Passamaquoddy Bay; that LNG ship transits through Head Harbour Passage and Passamaquoddy Bay are banned. Instead of taking the responsible approach and heeding Canada's warnings, all three LNG projects decided they would rather fight with Canada than succeed. Despite Downeast LNG's claims to have the right of innocent passage through Canadian waters, in actuality, the US does not have that right according to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and according to traditional maritime law (since the coastal state — Canada, in this case — determines what qualifies as "innocent" under traditional law).

If Downeast LNG had heeded Canada's warnings, it could have found a new location of sufficient size to fulfill the DOT-FERC exclusion zone requirements — as well as made sure their project could actually receive LNG by ship. Now, however, Downeast LNG has two immutable obstacles:
Canada's prohibition of LNG ship transits to the proposed Downeast LNG terminal, and
A project site that cannot accommodate the required exclusion zones.

Not only that, but the US Coast Guard, in its Letter of Recommendation and Waterway Assessment, requires thatDowneast LNG…
Obtain a letter of consent from Native American tribes whose waterway rights would be impacted by the project — a requirement that Downeast LNG is defying; Downeast LNG has essentially claimed that Native Americans have no rights in Passamaquoddy Bay (see FERC docket filing by Maine Historic Preservation Commission regarding this concern); and
Obtain cooperation and coordination from the Government of Canada for safe and secure LNG transits in both US and Canadian waters — something Canada has steadfastly indicated will not be forthcoming.

The Coast Guard makes no idle requirements. What it requires of Downeast LNG — is impossible for Downeast LNG to fulfill.

One wonders what the venture capital firm Yorktown Partners, Downeast LNG's financial backer, could possibly be thinking.

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