The public comment period for a draft environmental impact statement on the AK LNG project closed this week, but not before the Mat-Su borough filed yet another motion asking federal regulators to again review the possibility of locating the terminus of the cross-state natural gas line at Port MacKenzie.
The project will likely be shelved after this environmental review is done. There are no private companies willing to do it and the state-funded corporation that has been in charge has been steadily trimming staff as its funding runs out. After a decade of field work and billions of dollars, both public and private, invested in the project, the only parties turning a profit are the attorneys. I spoke with Larry Persily, who wrote about the latest round of filings for the Alaska Journal of Commerce.
“Kenai has an attorney in Washington D.C., Mat-Su has an attorney in Washington D.C., Valdez is using an Anchorage attorney and yeah, they’re expensive. As a member of the public, I kind of scratch my head a little bit and think how much are you spending to fight over a project that doesn’t exist?”
“The final impact statement would say this is the preferred site, this is the one we’ve determined is the least environmentally damaging, practical option. At this point it looks to be Nikiski. It certainly could change. At that point, that’s (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) FERC’s decision and if someone wanted to challenge it, they’d have to go to court. The only parties that can legally go to court to challenge a final decision by FERC are intervenors. The city of Valdez is an intervenor, the Matanuska-Susitna borough is an intervenor, so is the Kenai Peninsula borough...FERC’s decision would be final for the location, subject to someone who doesn’t like it who has legal standing wanting to go to court to challenge it, and then also subject to whether anybody ever builds it.”
“Twenty-some years ago, federal regulators gave approval to build and LNG plant in Valdez and that obviously never got built. So, just because you get a federal EIS, just because you get FERC authorization, doesn’t mean you build it. The other irony, in the Lower 48, even in Texas now, you see a lot of opposition from communities, from different groups, who don’t want an LNG plant in their town, who don’t want a pipeline...we’re 180 degrees from down south. Here, you have three communities spending a lot of money on lawyers because they’re fighting for it. They’re fighting over it, not against it. There’s a lot of money, a lot of jobs if, someday, it got built it would be an economic benefit to whichever community gets it. The producers, the state through the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation, decided six years ago Nikiski was the best place. Not perfect. There are problems with Nikiski, but there are fewer problems with Nikiski than there are with the Mat-Su or Valdez. That was the decision, it’s been six years, I don’t expect FERC to overrule that or come up with a different opinion. So I guess the question is, if the final EIS comes out in the spring of 2020 and FERC decides to give an authorization to this project and it says Nikiski, will the city of Valdez or the Matanuska-Susitna borough take it to federal court. I would like to think not. But we’ll find out next year.”