Feds give LNG firm 'to-do' list

A map from the Draft Environmental Impact Statement released Friday shows the proposed site of the Bradwood Landing liquefied natural gas terminal near Washington's Puget Island.

SKAMOKAWA - The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has issued the long-awaited Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Bradwood Landing liquefied natural gas project, proposed for a site four miles south of Skamokawa on the Columbia River.

The 600-page document asserts that the Bradwood project - which involves dredging the Columbia River, filling wetlands and installing 36 miles of underground pipeline - has the potential to cause "limited significant environmental impacts." FERC staff found the mitigation measures proposed by project developer NorthernStar Natural Gas Co. will "substantially reduce" those impacts, and recommended 98 additional mitigation measures.

With proper mitigation, the report concluded, the Bradwood project would have "limited adverse environmental impact."

The DEIS released Friday is the first version of the final analysis required before the FERC can authorize an LNG terminal. Its release marks another milestone for NorthernStar, one of four companies pursuing LNG projects on the Columbia River and the farthest along in the federal approval process.

In the assessment, FERC staff compile all known impacts of the Bradwood project, and, with input from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard, draw conclusions on how the project should be constructed to minimize environmental harm. FERC will accept public comments on the document and hold public meetings before releasing the final Environmental Impact Statement, which the five-member commission will use to rule on the project.

The Bradwood DEIS initiated an extended 120-day public review period, setting Dec. 24 as the last day for comments.

The standard length of a DEIS public review for an LNG project is 45 days, but U.S. Rep. David Wu, D-Ore., has repeatedly asked that the period be extended to 120 days, filing two additional pleas after FERC denied his first request and asking local agencies to join in his campaign.

U.S. Rep. Brian Baird has announced his opposition to the Bradwood Landing project - citing negative impacts on river commerce, the environment and private property owners as well as a potential burden on local taxpayers as his reasons. The three state legislators who represent Washington's 19th District also oppose the project.

The Bradwood terminal would occupy 40 acres within a 411-acre site controlled by NorthernStar. The project involves dredging 58 acres of the Columbia River to create a turning basin and berth for LNG delivery tankers near the terminal site; building a wharf off the river bank; installing two LNG storage tanks with 160,000 cubic meters of capacity apiece, LNG vaporization equipment and service buildings at Bradwood Landing; and running a 36.3-mile natural gas sendout pipeline eastward across Clatsop and Columbia counties, northward under the Columbia River and on through Washington's Cowlitz County to meet the Williams Interstate pipeline north of Kelso, Wash.

Terminal operation would require taking water from the Columbia River for construction, weekly testing of fire suppression equipment and for ballast and engine cooling water for LNG tankers. Construction of the terminal would result in a permanent loss of about 13 acres of wetlands on 31 acres of forest and 13 acres of shrub-scrub vegetation; pipeline construction would impact 98 acres of wetlands, 180 acres of forest, and seven acres of shrub-scrub vegetation and result in permanent conversion of five acres of forested wetlands to other wetland types.

Dozens of fish species, including 13 federally listed threatened or endangered salmonid species, may be affected by the project, according to the DEIS.

The terminal is also proposed in a "high" hazard area, the report states, where there is potential for earthquakes and soil liquefaction, but FERC found NorthernStar's engineering designs would account for the impacts of seismic hazards.

Overall, FERC staff found the company's proposed mitigation measures, in addition to a few others proposed by FERC, would compensate for many of the identified impacts. Additional protection against environmental impacts will come prior to terminal construction from consultations between the company and relevant regulatory agencies. There will also be an environmental and engineering inspection and mitigation monitoring program to ensure ongoing compliance with mitigation requirements.

If the Coast Guard issues a Letter of Recommendation finding the waterway to be suitable for LNG marine traffic (with additional conditions), the security provisions and operational controls that would be imposed would make the likelihood of an LNG spill, and the potential for an associated pool fire, remote.

More info: The document is available online at: (http://www.ferc.gov/industries/lng/enviro/eis/2007/08-17-07-eis.asp) or go to (www.ferc.gov) and click on "What's New."

Send comments to: Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First Street, N.E., Room 1A, Washington, D.C. 20426

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