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"For much of the state of Maine, the environment is the economy"
                                           — US Senator Susan Collins, 2012 Jun 21



 

Latest News

NOTICE — Beginning in 2013 March:
Due to the pending FERC calendar re Downeast LNG permitting, in order to focus our time and resources, news articles cited on this website will include mostly just those articles of interest to the Passamaquoddy Bay area.


2013 July 30

Maine

New gas pipeline could ease capacity shortage — Portland Press Herald, Portland, ME

One of the nation’s largest natural gas pipeline companies announced on Wednesday that it will expand its system in New England, a move that could help ease a winter capacity shortage that has been linked to billions of dollars in higher electricity prices in Maine and the region.

Houston-based Kinder Morgan Energy Partners L.P. said it has reached agreements with local natural gas distribution companies in southern New England to transport the equivalent of 500 million cubic feet per day on an expansion of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline called the Northeast Energy Direct Project.

Kinder Morgan said it would boost capacity through a combination of new pipelines in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New York, as well as additional loops, new compressor stations and other modifications from Pennsylvania to New Hampshire. Service would begin in November of 2018, pending approval from federal energy regulators and other permits.

Kinder Morgan’s plans complement other expansion and project proposals in Maine and the region meant to increase supply and bring the high cost of natural gas here closer to national averages. That in turn could lower electric rates, because half of the region’s power is generated today with natural gas. A study by the region’s power grid operator found New England homes and businesses paid $3 billion more last winter for power than they would have if adequate gas were available.

Kinder Morgan’s announcement comes as a major policy effort by the six New England governors continues to move forward, a controversial plan to increase gas pipeline capacity by nearly 20 percent in three years. Utility customers would be asked to help pay for the projects, which could cost billions of dollars altogether, through electricity rates. Costs soon would be recovered by savings on energy bills, advocates say.

Approval in Maine is being considered this summer and fall by the Maine Public Utilities Commission.

But some conservation groups, including Environment Northeast, are pushing back on pipeline expansion. They say it ignores diversified, lower-impact solutions and adds to the region’s over-reliance on gas.

“Additionally, consumer demand for cost-effective cleaner alternatives – such as energy efficiency, distributed generation and advanced heating technologies like air source heat pumps – is booming and states need to evaluate the potential for utilizing these lower risk alternatives to meet our energy needs.” [Colored & bold emphasis added.]

New England

The whale watch boat hit an offshore natural gas port. What’s that? (Jul 29) — The Boston Globe, Boston, MA

The line that snagged a Boston Harbor Cruises boat this week was attached to what is known as a “liquid [sic; liquefied] natural gas offloading facility,” a relatively new project built to add capacity to the region’s energy supply.

The $350 million facility has struggled in recent years with the decline in imported gas. A Globe report last year noted that it hadn’t taken any deliveries since it opened in 2008.

Boston Harbor Cruises has acknowledged that the vessel strayed into a “restricted navigation area” and promised the company would cooperate with a Coast Guard investigation.

On Northeast Gateway’s website, the company points out that the LNG port is in a location that is home to a population of massive right whales, a species whose numbers were critically decreased by hunting in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. [Colored & bold emphasis added.]

Webmaster's comment: So much for "safety and security" surrounding Northeast Gateway LNG terminal; however, the lack of use of the new terminal indicates how absolutely wacky the LNG and natural gas decision making process is. But then, following Downeast LNG's own nonsensical path has taught us that.

Whale watch lurches into overnight ordeal (Jul 29) — The Boston Globe, Boston, MA

The tour, run by Boston Harbor Cruises, bills itself as “Boston’s only three-hour whale watch.” This trip ended up taking 18 hours.

The whale watch boat returning from Stellwagen Bank on Monday afternoon strayed into a restricted navigation area, where its propeller became entangled in a cable for a natural gas pipeline, stranding 163 passengers on an 83-foot vessel overnight in a scenario that turned into a nightmare.

The cable that snagged the Cetacea was part of Excelerate Energy’s Northeast Gateway Deepwater Port, the Coast Guard said. The deepwater port is a facility where liquefied natural gas tankers can offload gas, which is then piped underwater to shore.

The ship, traveling with only one of its two propellers working, limped back to its dock next to the New England Aquarium just before 8 a.m. Tuesday, escorted by the Tybee. [Colored & bold emphasis added.]

Northeast

Unanswered Cove Point expansion questions to be addressed — TheBayNet.com, MD

The League of Women Voters of Calvert County will bring together experts in an informal setting to answer questions regarding Dominion Cove Point’s proposed Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) expansion. The meeting, on Thursday, August 14 from 6:30 PM - 9:00 PM at the Calvert Library (located at 850 Costley Way, Prince Frederick, MD), is free and open to the public.

Topics will include: safety, proximity to local neighborhoods, evacuation plans, emissions, traffic and environmental concerns as well as economic benefits.

Dominion declines participation in League's meeting — TheBayNet.com, MD

A town hall meeting planned by the League of Women Voters (LWV) of Calvert County will apparently be minus one participant [Dominion] when it is held in August. The purpose of the League’s meeting at Calvert Library Prince Frederick Thursday, Aug. 14 is to discuss lingering questions regarding the Dominion Cove Point Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Export project. The forum is scheduled from 6:30 to 9 p.m.

Opponents have cited safety and environmental concerns. In addition to fears of a possible explosion at the plant site and its residual impact on the surrounding community, project foes have been critical of the plan due to concerns that it could increase hydraulic fracturing or fracking in the Appalachian region.

“Why is it illegal for me to walk into this courthouse with an empty propane tank from my barbecue grill and yet it is OK for Dominion to build a liquefaction train which will contain 290,000 gallons of liquid propane, right across the street from homes on Cove Point Road?” Sigler asked. “We need a minimum safety study.”

Gas industry survey shows job growth slowing (Jul 29) — StateImpact Pennsylvania, National Public Radio (NPR)

Job growth in the Marcellus Shale industry continues, but it’s slowing down.

“I think it’s pretty clear we’ve been a victim of our own success,” says MSC President Dave Spigelmyer. “Natural gas prices have softened rather dramatically.”

Community-based water monitoring in the Marcellus shale (Jul 29) — FracTracker.org

While the threat of Marcellus Shale gas development has sparked new interest in watershed monitoring across Pennsylvania, many of these new efforts are being initiated by civil society organizations operating in a political-economic climate in which scientific knowledge is increasingly being generated by non-academic and non-governmental entities. Enlisting volunteers and gathering independent resources to conduct water monitoring is one way that organizations supporting civil society research address the problem of “undone science” or, “areas of research that are left unfunded, incomplete, or generally ignored but that social movements or civil society organizations often identify as worthy of more research” (Frickel et al. 2010: 444). [Colored & bold emphasis added.]

Gulf of Mexico

FERC approves Freeport LNG export project — FERC

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) today authorized Freeport LNG Development, L.P. to site, construct, and operate facilities to liquefy and export domestic natural gas from its existing liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal located near the city of Freeport, Brazoria County, Texas.

This is the third LNG export project authorized by FERC. There are currently 10 LNG export projects that have filed formal applications pending before the Commission, and there are three LNG export projects in the prefiling process.

British Columbia

West Vancouver opposes LNG export plan — North Shore News, North Vancouver, BC

Tankers carrying liquefied natural gas should stay out of Howe Sound, according to a unanimous motion passed by West Vancouver council.

After hearing numerous environmental concerns, West Vancouver council joined with Lions Bay July 21 in calling on the federal government to ban the passage of LNG tankers in Howe Sound. The motion was a response to an LNG plant proposed for the site of a former pulp mill southwest of downtown Squamish.

"This particular location, in a confined watershed, in a very confined waterway, passing three ferry lanes, passing by several major population centres including West Vancouver, is a particularly inappropriate location," Finn said. [Colored & bold emphasis added.]

Quicksilver Resources Canada files for LNG export authority (Jul 29) — LNG Law Blog

Quicksilver Resources Canada Inc. (Quicksilver) filed an application with the Canadian National Energy Board to export 20 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) (960 Bcf/year) of LNG over 25 years from the proposed Discovery LNG Project located just north of the City of Campbell River, British Columbia. Quicksilver states that the proposed project would have four liquefaction trains with a total LNG production capacity of approximately 20 mtpa. Quicksilver intends to export the LNG to Pacific Rim markets in Asia.

United States

Natural gas exports will have to wait until September (Jul 29) — Washington Examiner, Washington, DC

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee won't tackle legislation on liquefied natural gas exports before lawmakers depart for their August recess this week.

Chairwoman Mary Landrieu, D-La., and ranking member Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, with their respective caucuses, weren't able to reach an agreement on the varying proposals lawmakers have filed to expedite natural gas export approvals. With the November midterm elections nearing — in which Landrieu's seat is up for grabs — the prospects of striking a deal are looking shaky. [Colored & bold emphasis added.] [Colored & bold emphasis added.]

Congressional watch-dog warns fracking waste could threaten drinking water (Jul 28) — StateImpact Pennsylvania, National Public Radio (NPR)

The Government Accountability Office [GAO] says new risks from underground injections of oil and gas waste could harm drinking water supplies, and the EPA needs to step up both oversight and enforcement. The GAO released a study on Monday detailing the EPA’s role in overseeing the nation’s 172,000 wells, which either dispose of oil and gas waste, use “enhanced” oil and gas production techniques, store fossil fuels for later use, or use diesel fuel to frack for gas or oil. These wells are referred to as “class II” underground injection wells and are regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Oversight of these wells vary by state, with some coming under the regulatory authority of the EPA, including the 1,865 class II wells in Pennsylvania. The GAO faults the EPA for inconsistent on-site inspections and guidance that dates back to the 1980′s. Of the more than 1800 class II wells in Pennsylvania, the GAO reports only 33 percent were inspected in 2012. Some states, including California, Colorado and North Dakota, require monthly reporting on injection pressure, volume and content of the fluid.

[T]he GAO does not have much faith in the industry’s voluntary reporting website FracFocus…. [Colored & bold emphasis added.]

Federal report says better oversight needed to protect drinking water from Marcellus Shale industry (Jul 29) — Pennlive.com

EPA needs to improve data collection on well oversight at a national level, particularly since shale oil and gas production has increased four- and five-fold, respectively, since 2007, said GAO.

With this boom in production, new risks have emerged, including overpressurization of geologic formations and potential contamination of underground drinking water sources, said GAO. Without better nationwide data on these risks, regulators won't have the information needed to protect drinking water, said the report.

The report states that while officials have reported "few known instances of contamination from the injection of fluids into class II wells in the last 5 years; however, EPA's class II program does not require monitoring of groundwater for contamination nor do most of the eight states we reviewed. Moreover, EPA has noted that the absence of known contamination is not necessarily proof that contamination has not occurred."

Read the entire GAO report here: GAO-14-555 Drinking Water and Fracking report [Colored & bold emphasis added.]

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