Read our comments below.
Since 2008, Denali Borough residents have heard various proposals for a pipeline that would transport North Slope gas to the Anchorage area using a Parks Highway route. Now, in 2015, the Alaska Liquefied Natural Gas Project, or Alaska LNG, has emerged as the dominant gas pipeline project for Alaska. Overshadowing its most recent competitor, the Alaska Standalone Pipeline Project (ASAP), Alaska LNG is expected to cost between $45 and $65 billion dollars, the single largest investment in Alaska history. The project, unlike ASAP, would employ up to a 48 inch diameter pipe, would transport pure methane, and would involve liquefaction of the gas and export to Asian markets from a marine terminal, currently identified as Nikiski, Alaska.
FERC conducts scoping across the state: Docket No. PF14-21-000
In early November 2015 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) conducted scoping sessions in affected communities along the proposed pipeline route. FERC is the federal agency responsible for conducting environmental review of energy projects, and has already been in the borough scoping on proposed small hydro projects. The deadline for scoping comments was December 4, 2015, a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is scheduled to appear in 2017, and a Final EIS is scheduled for 2018, followed by a determination of whether the project should proceed. FERC will not be in the community again for public comment until the Draft EIS is out in 2017. DCC intends to submit comments. We encourage others to submit, even if past the deadline. The FERC scoping meeting in the Denali Borough attracted 25+ citizens. Brian Napier represented DCC and spoke to the effects of this project on scenic qualities, wildlife and the overall tourism economy. Others raised issues of impacts upon high-value land parcels in the Panguingue, Yanert, Montana Creek, Otto Lake and north Nenana Canyon areas, including acreage owned by the Denali Borough and still awaiting classification and land use plans. The issue of access roads and their disruption of the community came up. And, although bringing gas to tidewater for export is in Alaska’s interest, the disruption of Denali lands and communities carries with it no opportunity for access to gas or other clear benefits. The FERC scoping meeting in Anchorage attracted 40+ individuals and fourteen gave testimony. I spoke for DCC, and questioned the Parks Highway route, citing its heavy impacts on lands in the Denali Borough designated for wildlife habitat and public recreation. I urged FERC to consider other viable alternatives to the Parks Highway route, including the Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) to Valdez. As it happened, at least three other speakers favored this alternative route, with reasons focused on impacts to whales and problems with ice movement in cook Inlet. Although, a lot of momentum exists behind the Alaska LNG project as currently configured, FERC representatives present at the meeting indicated that all viable alternatives would be considered, based on public input. It is time for folks to raise their voices suggesting an alternative routing of this pipeline.
Unknowns make public comment difficult
One of the reasons I gave to FERC for opposing the Parks Highway route was the absence of useful detail on how project infrastructure will affect the lands and communities it crosses. Recent maps that showed possible access routes in the Denali Borough are no longer posted on the LNG website, and it is still unclear where gravel will be obtained and where the pipeline will be above vs. below ground. The overall visual impacts of laying pipe close to the Parks Highway in the Nenana Canyon have not been pictured. On one of the maps I reviewed, it looked as if an access road to the Yanert Valley portion of the line would be located on the BLM 17(b) easement that starts at a newly renovated pullout along the Parks Highway. I made it clear to LNG representatives that the conversion of this trail into a road for purposes of access to the pipeline would likely be opposed by the community.
Other project unknowns include whether the pipe will be 42” or 48” in diameter (not to be decided until May 2016), how large the footprint of a compressor station will be (two are envisioned, one north of Healy, the other north of Cantwell), whether the pipeline will be buried under or bridged over the Nenana River at Moody Bridge, what if any access roads are planned to that portion of the pipeline above the Nenana Canyon hotels, and how permanent any access roads would be in Yanert and Montana Creek areas. Also unknown at this time is how the pipeline senses a breach and provides notification of it, and what impacts from maintenance and general operations there would be.