Oct. 23–The construction and operation of NextDecade Corporation’s proposed Rio Grande LNG terminal at the Port of Brownsville would create some adverse environmental impact, though it could be reduced to “less than significant levels” if certain mitigation measures are performed.
That’s according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which issued a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Rio Grande LNG project and related Rio Bravo Pipeline project on Oct. 12.
At the same time, the Rio Grande LNG project combined with other similar projects within the same geographic scope “would result in certain significant cumulative impacts” on some environmental resources, according to FERC.
Rio Grande LNG is one of three companies that has filed an application with FERC seeking permission to build liquefied natural gas export terminals on the Brownsville Ship Channel. Annova LNG and Texas LNG are the other two. FERC is studying their applications but has not yet issued a draft EIS for either project.
According to the Rio Grande LNG EIS, the biggest potential for cumulative impacts — if all three LNG projects are built at once — would be on “soils, surface water quality, vegetation, wildlife, aquatic resources, threatened and endangered species, visual resources, land- and water-based transportation, air quality, and noise.”
The EIS reports that, based on Rio Grande LNG estimates, 880 barges and support vessels would deliver materials and equipment during construction, while in operation about 312 LNG carriers would call on the terminal each year, about six a week. Traffic on S.H. 48, meanwhile, will increase substantially as a result of construction activity, FERC said.
Sea turtles and other federally listed threatened and endangered species may be subjected to “moderate to significant cumulative impacts” during construction, while ocelots and jaguarundi are likely to be subjected to significant impacts as a result of a decrease or loss of habitat and increased potential for vehicle strikes, according to FERC.
While impacts such as ocelot habitat loss would be permanent, other cumulative impacts would be temporary and related to construction. FERC recommends a long list of mitigation and minimization measures that it recommended be a condition of FERC granting authorization to build. The full EIS is available in digital format only and can be read in its entirety at www.ferc.gov on the agency’s Environmental Documents page.
FERC is accepting public comments through Dec. 3. Full instructions for submitting comments electronically and via mail can be found on Pages 3 and 4 of the EIS. Also, public comment sessions are scheduled for 5-8 p.m. on Nov. 13 in Kingsville at Texas A&M; Nov. 14 from 5-8 p.m. at La Quinta in Raymondville; and Nov. 15 from 5-9 p.m. at the Port Isabel Convention Center.
FERC is scheduled to issue a Final Environmental Impact Statement on April 26, 2019, while the deadline for FERC to authorize the project is July 25, 2019. Assuming FERC gives the thumbs-up, NextDecade said it expects to make a final investment decision in the third quarter of 2019.
NextDecade President and CEO Matt Schatzman said the draft EIS is the “culmination of several years of analysis and evaluation in conjunction with multiple federal, state and local agencies and stakeholders.”
“This milestone brings us one step closer to achieving a final investment decision on the Rio Grande LNG project, to creating thousands of jobs in the Rio Grande Valley and communities throughout the State of Texas, and to delivering reliable energy solutions to our customers around the world,” he said.
In a statement in response to FERC’s issuance of the draft EIS, Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club Organizer Rebekah Hinojosa called for FERC to reject Rio Grande LNG’s permit application.
“The Point Isabel School District rejected a tax abatement for Rio Grande LNG,” she said. “The local communities of Port Isabel, South Padre Island, Laguna Vista and Long Island Village have all passed anti-LNG resolutions. And hundreds of nearby residents have turned out to public meetings to stop LNG. We will not give up the fight to protect our communities, our local tourism industry and our climate from this dangerous project.”
Patrick Anderson, a member of the grass-roots group Save RGV from LNG, said in a statement that the draft EIS “is not a permit to build” but is an opportunity for the public to share their comments and concerns about the project.
“When you look at it, it is yet another confirmation that this project should be denied given the amount of pollution and risk to the RGV, especially in light of the report released on October 8 from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,” he said.
That report by the top scientific body investigating climate change found that the world is near the point of no return in terms of keeping global warming at a moderate levels, and that unprecedented action by nations is necessary over the next decade to avert catastrophe.
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