Friday, March 14, 2014

A Port Ambrose "Pause"?

Liberty Natural Gas continues to drag its feet in completing the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for its proposed Port Ambrose LNG facility off the NJ/NY coast.  Under the federal Deepwater Port Act, applications for LNG facilities in the ocean (like Port Ambrose) must be processed, from application submission to final agency approval, within 356 calendar days.  All public input, environmental review, and economic analyses of proposals happen within that timeframe in a 240-day “clock.”  On October 21, 2013, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and the Maritime Administration (MARAD), the two federal agencies responsible for reviewing Liberty’s application, officially “stopped the clock” on reviewing and processing the application for 90 days, with the intent to provide Liberty with more time to address over 250 critical data gaps identified during the scoping period by federal agencies and members of the public, including Clean Ocean Action.  This decision to “stop the clock” for Port Ambrose review was made after over half of the public’s review timeframe had already elapsed.  The 90-day timeline suspension passed, and although new documents were slowly posted to the federal docket during this timeframe, it didn’t appear that any significant headway had been made in addressing these data gaps.

The public was kept in the dark about whether or not the clock resumed ticking on January 19th, 2014, until last week.  On March 7, 2014, the USCG sent a letter to Liberty, which stated that the timeline for processing Liberty’s application had been retroactively re-suspended effective January 19, 2014.  The clock will remain stopped indefinitely, until Liberty finishes addressing the over 200 critical data gaps identified by Clean Ocean Action and others during the project scoping process and can provide a complete draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for review and public comment.  One of the major data gaps concerns where onshore infrastructure will be located during the port’s construction, something that Liberty has been silent about throughout the application process.  The letter contains a list of specific data requests and a strong warning to Liberty: “Our team expects timely responses to the below list [of data requests] and any further requests for necessary information.  If, in our collective opinion, your responses are unreasonably delayed, we will take the appropriate action we deem necessary to further the application process.”  A risk assessment workshop was recently completed, which identified potential hazards associated with the construction and operation of Port Ambrose.  The letter states that a report of the workshop’s findings is in production, and shall be included as an appendix to the DEIS once finalized.  This, coupled with Liberty’s ongoing filling of data gaps, could further delay completion of the DEIS, which may not become available for public review and comment for several months.

Clean Ocean Action continues to call on Governors Christie and Cuomo to exercise their legal right to veto this proposal. Such a veto, under the law, can be transmitted to the Coast Guard and the Maritime Administration, at any time.  Call your governor today ask him to veto Port Ambrose!

Governor Christie: (609) 292-6000
Governor Cuomo: (518) 474-8390

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