Saturday, January 12, 2008

Did Broadwater Answer All the Questions New York Asked 21 Days Ago?

On the day after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission released the Broadwater final environmental impact statement with the conclusion that the LNG proposal is genrally a sound and safe one, it's worth reiterating that Broadwater not only needs approval from FERC, it needs approval from New York State, including several permits from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

It was just three weeks ago, on December 21, that the DEC sent
this letter to Broadwater and its attorneys, with copies to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, detailing why Broadwater's permit applications were incomplete and inadequate and why, the DEC believed, the environmental impact statement should be changed to address the incompletions and inadequacies.

A lot of them critiques are technical and hard for me to understand. But they raise an interesting point as to timing. Here's one example, regarding air quality and tiny particles of pollution that Broadwater's Long Island Sound terminal would spew into the air. It's tough reading but slog through it and then I have a question and a larger point:

The application discusses the impacts of the project on PM2.5 levels in the context of Commissioner's Policy 33 (CP-33. Assessing and Mitigating Impacts of Fine Particulate Matter Emissions. 12/29/2003) on pages 4 8 to 4 10. It concludes that even though these impacts are above the thresholds in CP 33 that would require an environmental impact statement, such a Draft EIS has been submitted to FERC. We previously commented on this analysis and do not know yet FERC's conclusions in the Final EIS.

However, it is seen from Tables 11 to 13 that the impacts from AERMOD predictions are above the 24 hour PM2.5 standard of 35 ug/m3 with and without the carriers next to the FSRU, when the maximum regional background level from the protocol is added to the project impacts. If this background level is used for the OCD model results in Tables 8 to 10, the same standards violations would result. As noted previously, these results do not account for comments 1 and 2 above which could increase the level of impacts.

These projected violations are unacceptable for inclusion in the FERC EIS, and for DEC permitting purposes. Broadwater can revisit the background levels, which they note to be conservative, using procedures allowed in EPA's Modeling Guidelines. In addition, the application (and FEIS) should discuss all measures which Broadwater can take to minimize the impacts of PM2.5 not only to meet CP 33 requirements, but also because the location of the project can be deemed to be in the PM2.5 nonattainment area. [emphasis added]

Now, I haven't read the 2,000-plus-page environmental impact statement, but is it possible that in the 21 days between the DEC's letter and the release of the EIS, Broadwater has answered the state's question and modified the EIS? The state's letter is long and is filled with similar critiques and requests for further information and analysis. In 21 days, could Broadwater have satisfactorily addressed all of them?

The state's decision will be based on the application and the supporting information in the EIS. If Broadwater hasn't responded adequately, is there any way the state can approve a permit? If the EIS was not modified in the 21 days since the DEC sent its letter, presumably Broadwater would still have time to change its application to the state. But if Broadwater modifies its application to the state, doesn't the information and analysis in the application have to correspond to the information and analysis in the EIS?

The answer might be simple: Broadwater answered all the state's concerns and the environmental impact statement was modified over the last three weeks to reflect that. Or Broadwater didn't answer the questions.

There's another possibility: the state's letter was a formality, sent to create a record of the state's concerns, and that in reality the state officials and Broadwater had been working together all along to solve the state's issues. In other words, the letter was the conclusion of a collaborative process and Broadwater had plenty of time to change the EIS.

I have no idea which scenario is the right one. At some point perhaps I'll wade into the EIS and try to figure it out. But for now, it will be fascinating to watch how New York State responds.

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Anonymous Bryan said...

Re: this post and your subsequent post, the technical issues are too much for me to digest. I did read the alternative analysis in the FEIS. If I can generalize it, it looks like FERC evaluated the impacts of the various projects in absolute terms. That is, 15 miles of underwater pipeline is better than 20 miles of pipeline, regardless of whether it's off the coast of NJ or within LIS. A seabed impact of 106 acres (from the creation of an artificial island) has a much bigger impact than the absence of an artificial island.

I'm not defending it, just saying that it seems to be FERC's logic. I think everyone else looks at it the opposite way. Location is a factor.

1:15 PM  

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