FERC Staff Issues the Final EIS for the Alaska LNG Project (CP17-178-000)
Issued: March 6, 2020
The staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission) has prepared a final environmental impact statement (EIS) to assess the impacts of constructing and operating the Alaska LNG Project (Project) proposed by the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation (AGDC). The purpose and need of the Project is to commercialize the natural gas resources of Alaska’s North Slope by converting the existing natural gas supply to liquefied natural gas (LNG) for export and providing gas for users in Alaska.
Pursuant to Section 3 of the Natural Gas Act, AGDC is seeking Authorization to construct, own, and operate the following facilities in Alaska: a new Gas Treatment Plant; a 1.0-mile-long, 60-inch-diameter Prudhoe Bay Unit Gas Transmission Line; a 62.5-mile-long, 32-inch-diameter Point Thomson Unit Gas Transmission Line; an 806.9-mile-long, 42-inch-diameter natural gas pipeline (Mainline Pipeline) and associated aboveground facilities, including eight compressor stations and a heater station; and a 20 million metric-ton per annum liquefaction facility (Liquefaction Facilities), including an LNG Plant and Marine Terminal Facilities.
The Gas Treatment Facilities (Gas Treatment Plant [GTP], Prudhoe Bay Unit Gas Transmission Line, and Point Thomson Unit Gas Transmission Line) would be on state land designated for oil and natural gas development within the North Slope Borough. The Mainline Pipeline would start at the GTP and generally follow the existing Trans Alaska Pipeline System crude oil pipeline and adjacent highways south to Livengood, Alaska. From Livengood, the Mainline Pipeline would head south–southwest to Trapper Creek, following the George Parks Highway and passing through a portion of the Denali National Park and Preserve. It would then follow the Beluga Highway and turn south–southeast around Viapan Lake. It would then cross Cook Inlet entering near Beluga Landing and exiting at a landing near Suneva Lake on the northern part of the Kenai Peninsula. The Mainline Pipeline would terminate at the Liquefaction Facilities, which would be sited on the eastern shore of Cook Inlet in the Nikiski area of the Kenai Peninsula. The Project would have an annual average inlet design capacity of up to 3.7 billion standard cubic feet per day and a peak capacity of 3.9 billion standard cubic feet per day.
FERC is the federal agency responsible for authorizing onshore LNG facilities used for exportation of natural gas. FERC is the lead federal agency responsible for the preparation of the EIS. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, U.S. Department of Energy, and National Marine Fisheries Service are cooperating agencies because they have jurisdiction by law or special expertise with respect to environmental resources and impacts associated with the Project. The cooperating agencies provided input to the conclusions and recommendations presented in the EIS. Following issuance of the final EIS, the cooperating agencies will issue subsequent decisions, determinations, permits, or authorizations for the Project in accordance with each individual agency’s regulatory requirements.
We conclude that Project construction and operation would result in temporary to 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.
We conclude that constructing the Project would have significant impacts on permafrost due to granular fill placement, particularly for the Mainline Facilities. The Project would have significant adverse impacts on wetlands from granular fill placement resulting in substantial conversions of wetlands to uplands and from the long recovery time for forested wetlands. Significant adverse impacts on forest would result from permanent losses or conversions from installation of aboveground facilities, granular fill placement, vegetation maintenance in the Mainline Pipeline right-of-way, and the long recovery time for forests. For caribou, the impacts on the Central Arctic Herd 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 operation due to flaring events, impacts on air quality could be significant. Emissions from the GTP and Liquefaction Facilities could have a significant impact on regional haze and acid deposition in some Class I and Class II nationally designated areas. Certain short-term activities, such as flaring at the GTP and Liquefaction Facilities, have the potential to result in short-term significant effects.
The Project would result in positive impacts on the state and local economies, but adverse impacts on housing, population, public services, and local businesses could occur in some areas during construction. 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, but these impacts are not expected to be high and adverse.
Project 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). With the issuance of the draft EIS, we requested initiation of formal consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service regarding Project effects on federally listed species. Consultation with these agencies is ongoing.
High-pressure piping at the GTP could pose a significant safety impact on off-site persons. To address this, we recommend that emergency response plans for the GTP be coordinated with adjacent operators and that AGDC provide validation or verification for the modeling assumptions and methods.
Because the Project would result in significant impacts on permafrost, wetlands, forest, and caribou (the Central Arctic Herd), 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 be significant.
Our conclusions in the EIS are based wholly or in part on the factors provided below.
- The Project would be constructed in compliance with all applicable federal laws, regulations, permits, and authorizations.
- AGDC would implement all best management practices and the measures described in the Project Upland Erosion Control, Revegetation, and Maintenance Plan and Project Wetland and Waterbody Construction and Mitigation Procedures.
- AGDC has committed to following impact minimization measures contained in plans it has prepared for resources, such as a Blasting Plan; Fugitive Dust Control Plan; Gravel Sourcing Plan and Reclamation Measures; Migratory Bird Conservation Plan; Noxious/Invasive Plant and Animal Control Plan; Paleontological Resources Management Plan; Polar Bear and Pacific Walrus Avoidance and Interaction Plan; Plan for Unanticipated Discovery of Cultural Resources and Human Remains; Revegetation Plan; Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasures Plan; and Winter and Permafrost Construction Plan, among others.
- AGDC would be required to satisfy the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ regulatory requirements to mitigate unavoidable impacts on waters of the United States, including wetlands. Compliance with the Endangered Species Act and the National Historic Preservation Act would be complete prior to construction.
- The Project would include protections and safeguards that ensure facility integrity and public safety.
- The Coast Guard determined that Cook Inlet is suitable for accommodating LNG carrier activity associated with the Project.
- The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration determined that the Liquefaction Facilities are in compliance with 49 CFR 193 Subpart B.
- FERC’s environmental and LNG engineering construction inspection programs would ensure compliance with AGDC’s commitments and the conditions of any FERC Authorization.
In addition, we recommend that the Project-specific impact avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures that we have developed (included in the final EIS as recommendations) be attached as conditions to any Authorization issued by the Commission for the Project.
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