For a second time, a federal commission has ordered the State’s gasline corporation to provide information on Port MacKenzie as an alternative site for the proposed multi-billion dollar natural gas liquefaction facility.
On Oct. 2, a Branch Chief for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, wrote to the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation “the enclosure includes several requests for information that have been made multiple times in the past for which an adequate response has not yet been received.”
The 85-page request for information will help FERC continue to prepare the draft environmental impact statement for the 800-mile gas pipeline project. Port MacKenzie is a subject in 2 of the 193 questions. The Alaska Gasline Development Corporation or AGDC is required by federal law to analyze alternative sites such as Port MacKenzie.
But AGDC hasn’t done that fairly, according to Matanuska-Susitna Borough Mayor Vern Halter. Halter says the Borough would like a fair assessment of its industrial port as the terminus to the $42 billion pipeline project.
“The Mat-Su Borough wants the best location for Alaska’s LNG project. If that’s not Port MacKenzie that’s acceptable, but give the alternative sites your best analysis before ruling them out, as you are required to do by federal law. We haven’t gotten that,” Halter said. “Two years ago, AGDC started analyzing a phantom site on a mudflat, the least attractive site for a port, while ignoring our industrial deep draft dock and its 60 feet of water just three miles to the south,” Halter said.
Mayor Halter asks that the AGDC Board look into why AGDC staff continues to avoid giving a fair assessment of Port MacKenzie.
The route to Port MacKenzie is shorter, saves Alaskans more than $1.4 billion in construction costs and an estimated $100 million per year in maintenance and debt interest costs.
The Borough is not delaying the project. AGDC has 191 other questions from FERC, which include many subjects such as: ballast water, the Cook Inlet crossing of pipe and cable anchors in a 13,200 foot wide construction right-of-way, helipads, tidal currents in Cook Inlet that could affect the stability of the pipeline during construction and operations, to name a few. The Nikiski site as the proposed terminus requires the gas pipeline to cross under Cook Inlet.
On page 16, question 51 asks AGDC to show how deep the water is at alternative sites and how long the loading facility trestle would have to be built to reach water deep enough for large LNG carriers to access it. A trestle built north of the deep draft dock at Port MacKenzie, reaching 60 feet of water would be 960 feet shorter than a trestle at Nikiski. Until the Borough disclosed the information, this fact has not been shared with FERC by AGDC in its examination of alternatives.
In the latest request by FERC, AGDC is asked to examine the Borough’s “optimal site” as identified in a green border on a map posted here. The site AGDC examined contained wetlands, which lower’s the site’s chances for eligibility as an alternative. The Borough asks that the study site be moved slightly north of the existing site to exlude all wetlands and to increase the acreage to 1,048 acres.
“AGDC’s response to our response is that there’s not much difference between the two sites. (AGDC’s option 1 and Borough’s optimum site) Well that’s not true,” said Mat-Su Borough Internal Auditor James Wilson, who has been leading the analysis effort at the Borough. “Their option 1 shows 571 acres available with wetlands. A liquefaction plant requires at least 900 acres. Our optimum site has 1,048 acres, zero wetlands. It’s laid it out in a map in a Sept. 14 filing and consistent to what we have continued to show AGDC in past years at the port,” Wilson said.
Both FERC and Wilson agree that AGDC needs to provide its justification for wanting to tear down the existing barge trestle system. “AGDC has not offered justification for why the Borough needs to tear out the barge trestle and rebuild it with one with the same capability. That’s running up the cost and increasing environmental impact,” Wilson said.
AGDC has 20 days to answer the 193 questions.