Alaska LNG submits second draft of resource reports

Members of the public can get another look at the results of years of fieldwork conducted by the Alaska LNG Project now in the reports submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The resource report drafts, which detail everything about the project from a general overview to where potential workers’ children would go to school, are the culmination of about three years of summer geotechnical and geophysical work as well as public meetings and comments. The project managers submitted the second draft of the 10 reports, totaling more than 33,000 pages, to the federal government on July 15. There are two other drafts as well, detailing reliability and safety and PCB contamination, that have not been made available yet.

FERC requires the resource reports to be submitted and reviewed before beginning the Environmental Impact Statement process, which the project needs before proceeding. The first drafts of the resource reports were submitted in the first quarter of 2015. These are the second draft, and after public and agency review and comments, project managers will submit them in a final application to FERC. Agencies have 60 days from the submission date to comment, and while the public can technically comment at any time, the Alaska LNG Project encourages the public to comment within that same 60-day window, said Josselyn O’Connor, community stakeholder advisor to the project. However, FERC accepts public comments at any time.

Project managers originally planned to submit the second draft of the resource reports in early 2016 in time for a final application submission in late 2016. That schedule has moved back, and the timing of the final application will be up to the project partners — ExxonMobil, BP, ConocoPhillips and the state, O’Connor said.

Beyond just the groundwork, the reports also try to address local concerns, O’Connor said at a community meeting held Monday in Nikiski.

“If you made comments, they’re in here,” she said.

One of the reports of most interest to the local community, Resource Report 5, outlines possible socioeconomic effects if the project were to go forward with placing its liquefaction plant in Nikiski. The introduction traces Alaska’s economic development from 1970–2010, focusing on oil development, the construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System and ending with a comparison between Alaska’s and the rest of the country’s economies in 2010. The body of the report itself considers a broad range of socioeconomic impacts, from pressure on infrastructure to the potential additional traffic in emergency rooms because incoming workers do not have primary care physicians in the area.

“Given the scale of the Project and its potential importance to the Alaska economy, the direct socioeconomic effects of the Project would also be experienced throughout the state,” the report states. “These statewide effects would include employment, fiscal and energy supply effects.”

Other reports focus on the project’s effect on natural resources such as fish, wildlife, vegetation, soils, air and noise quality, geological resources and water quality.

The resource reports are accessible to the public on the FERC Library, but for easier access, the Alaska LNG Project has linked them on its website. The Kenai Peninsula Borough has also linked them (http://www.kpb.us/mayor/lng-project/lng-project-updates), and the Alaska LNG Project provided thumbdrives and CDs loaded with the reports at the public meeting Monday. For those who could not attend, O’Connor said project managers can mail copies of the reports to those interested.

“This is your chance to be heard. I will tell you that when we started this project, we looked at comments on past gas line projects,” said Philip Brinkmann, licensing manager for the project. “There’s been 40 years of plans to build this gas line, and it’s a hard gas line to build. So we will look at those comments to make sure our project is learning.”

The project’s contractors are still taking soil samples in the Nikiski area near the proposed location for some of the storage tanks. Next month, project contractors also plan to run an aquifer pump test in the Nikiski area for a period of about 10 days to see the effects of their drawdown on the neighbors and surface water locations like lakes.

Project managers had originally planned the pump test for August, but they are still waiting for the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s permit to discharge the water into a quarry on Robert Walker Avenue, said Jeff Raun, a project advisor for the Alaska LNG Project, at the community meeting Monday.

There are three aquifers estimated to lie beneath Nikiski. At its peak, the proposed liquefaction facility would use about 1.4 million gallons of water per day, or about 250 gallons per minute, according to Resource Report 2, which details the project’s water use plan. The aquifer pump test would draw first out of the second underground aquifer, pumping about 350 gallons per minute for about 10 days to reflect the maximum possible need during construction. After that test, contractors will either deepen one of the wells or drill a new one down to the third aquifer and conduct a shorter but more intense test, pumping 1,000 gallons per minute for eight hours.

Residents attending the meeting Monday expressed concern about where that water would go and whether it would have any effect on the levels at Cabin Lake or Island Lake, both surrounded by homes. The water level at Cabin Lake, which is close to the center of industrial pumping in the area, declined more than other lakes further from the pumping source, according to 1981 U.S. Geological Survey research.

Public concern about water levels led the contractors to plan for surface water monitoring on Cabin Lake, Raun said. Throughout the test, contractors will monitor the effects on the lake’s level and said any residents who notice a difference in their water pressure or quality should call the project managers to let them know. The Alaska LNG Project managers plan to use significantly less water than operations like Tesoro or Agrium, Raun said.

After the fieldwork for the summer has wrapped up, project activities will likely be scaled back. No decision has been made yet about moving the Kenai Spur Highway to avoid the proposed facility site, and all the structures on the land the Alaska LNG Project purchased in the area have been demolished, said Matt Horneman, the deputy lands director for the project.

The plan is to close the local Paragon Partners office, which has been handling the land purchasing, and relocate operations to Anchorage. Call volume has decreased significantly and closing the office will save money, Horneman said.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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