Friday, July 10, 2015

Diving into the Deepwater Port Rules

Clean Ocean Action recently submitted comments on the US Coast Guard’s (USCG) and Maritime Administration’s (MARAD) proposed revisions to the Deep Water Port Act (DWPA). The DWPA controls the permitting, construction, and operation of deepwater port facilities in the United States, and is jointly administered by USCG and MARAD. The Deepwater Port Act has been modified over the years to account for the advent of Liquid Natural Gas technology, as well as the newly available supply of domestic natural gas as unconventional reserves are tapped using hydraulic fracturing.

Clean Ocean Action has opposed the industrialization of our coastal areas for the last thirty years, and believes that Liquid Natural Gas facilities represent the destruction of coastal ecosystems, sources of unavoidable pollution problems and environmental impacts to marine areas, and a continued reliance on fossil fuels, even in the face of an ever growing climate threat. Furthermore, as the DWPA recently was amended to allow for the export of natural gas to foreign countries, these facilities represent a cog in the domestic fracking machine that has polluted the water and air quality from the Marcellus Shale formation underlying western PA and NY, to the vast fracking fields of Oklahoma, North Dakota, and other western states.

Because of these principles, Clean Ocean Action voiced its’ many concerns over the revisions to the DWPA that would make it easier for corporations to skate through the permitting and environmental analysis processes. Our comments also focused on safety concerns in the planning and operation of these facilities, more general domestic energy concerns, Coastal States’ role in the permitting of deep water port facilities that have the potential to destroy their environmental and economic resources, and the open ended “clock stoppage” provisions that allow for an incomplete application to be put on hold so that these corporations can provide the necessary information for the federal and state agencies, as well as the public, to make accurate and informed decisions. This last issue has been illustrated through the prolonged fight over “Port Ambrose”, a proposed liquid natural gas facility off the coast of NY and NJ. This project has been put on hold twice now through the clock stoppage provision of the DWPA, most recently since March. The DWPA will continue to allow for, and even encourage these “zombie projects”, that exist in a perpetual state of limbo until they can be reanimated and continue to threaten the livelihoods of those who rely on intact marine environments as well as the thousands more who are unfortunate enough to live above a natural gas reserve.

In short, these revised rules are representative for how the federal permitting process for LNG terminals has gone; applicants provide incomplete and sometimes inaccurate information and, like children being led by the hand across a busy street, are walked through this process by USCG and MARAD. COA will continue to fight against any proposed LNG terminals along the coast of New York and New Jersey.

By Zach Lees, Ocean & Marine Policy Attorney 

Read our full comments here

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