By Dave Donaldson
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has refused to extend a principle permit needed for construction of an All-Alaska Gas Pipeline from the North Slope to Valdez. The three-year construction permit was issued to Yukon-Pacific in 1995 and has been extended four times since then. The project first began to come together during the Hammond Administration and has been planned around liquefying the gas for shipment to overseas markets.
Yukon-Pacific’s attorney, Washington D-C-based Patrick Rock, says Yukon-Pacific has thirty days to appeal the denial, although a decision whether to request that appeal hasn’t been made yet.
Bill Walker of Valdez –and a candidate for the Republican nomination for governor – has been involved in the project from the beginning. He says the FERC decision is not a major setback at this point. He says it only affects the project’s terminal at Anderson Bay, and supporters of the plan have known for a long time that the permit needed to be updated.
What is important is the data that has been collected over the years to obtain this permit. Some of these things took five, six, seven, one took eight years to obtain. So it’s the data that is important. And they have to update their plan for a facility based on new technology. I don’t think there’s a problem with that at all. That sort of goes without saying that something that old is going to have to be updated – and we’ve always said that.
The letter of denial from FERC – issued last Friday — points to outdated ambient measurements of air quality and marine vessel traffic as well as old resource and cultural surveys that were used in the 1995 permit. It also cites new standards now in place that need to be addressed relating to safety and seismic technology that was not available for the original permit.
The All-Alaska gas line is included as an option in the current project now out for industry response from TransCanada. Although Yukon-Pacific is not part of that plan, the permits and data have been discussed as a strong point for the Valdez route. Walker says more important than the FERC decision is the state’s decision last year not to renew the state’s right of way for the line.
The federal right of way was much longer, it took eight years to obtain. And so that’s there. But the state right of way just sends a message that – Are we really open for business? Do we really want a gas line when we’re not renewing any right of way for a gas line that a company’s spent years and years of work and data to obtain. What kind of message is that?
The FERC notification points out that the decision does not have any direct bearing on consideration of Yukon-Pacific’s export option. It also makes no direct comment on the company’s still-valid export permit issued by the Department of Energy.