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USA: Sierra Club Opposes Cameron LNG Export Plans

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The Sierra Club filed a formal protest to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on Tuesday, challenging a proposal to export billions of cubic feet of domestic natural gas from a facility on Lake Charles in Cameron Parish, LA.

The Sierra Club’s protest challenges natural gas companies’ efforts to secure liquefied natural gas (LNG) export licenses without acknowledging its damaging effects. DOE is currently studying the effects of exporting as much as a fifth of the domestic gas supply, and the Sierra Club calls for similar studies of the public health and environmental damage caused by increased fracking.

The Sierra Club’s challenge contends that the Cameron export proposal would lead to increased air and water pollution in Louisiana and Texas and raise domestic natural gas prices. The filing calls for a full Environmental Impact Statement to study the extent of this proposed facility’s environmental damages before DOE makes any final decisions. Weighing these threats is particularly important because the oil and gas industry currently exploits numerous loopholes and exceptions in federal safeguards, putting the health and safety of Americans at risk.

This filing is the fifth protest the Sierra Club has brought before DOE and other regulatory bodies, opposing LNG export facilities. The other challenges were filed against Cove Point, MD, Sabine Pass, LA, Coos Bay, OR, and Freeport, TX.

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USA: Sierra Club Opposes Cove Point LNG Export Plans

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The Sierra Club filed Monday the first formal objection with the U.S. Department of Energy against the export of domestic gas produced from fracking.

This is the third LNG export facility the organization has opposed.

Facilities in Coos Bay, OR, Sabine Pass, LA and Cove Point, MD are the first three challenged by the Sierra Club.

The filing challenges the export of Marcellus shale gas and others from Cove Point, MD facility, citing that exports would raise gas and electricity prices nationally and expand natural gas fracking.

The filing also called for a full Environmental Impact Statement on the effects of increased Marcellus fracking that would be brought on by this export proposal.

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USA: Baryonyx’s Proposed Project to Undergo Full Environmental Impact Statement

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The Baryonyx Corporation’s proposed South Texas offshore wind farm project will be subject to a full Environmental Impact Statement, according to a decision by the Galveston District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The alternative would have been for the USACE to settle for a less stringent Environmental Assessment.

Austin-based Baryonyx, which submitted permit applications to the USACE in June, announced the agency’s decision late last month. The company has proposed developing offshore wind leases off South Padre Island and Nueces County, and has more than 67,000 acres of submerged lands under lease from the Texas General Land Office across three sites between Corpus Christi and Brownsville.

This includes nearly 48,000 acres off Cameron County, divided between two parcels Baryonyx has named “Rio Grande” and “Rio Grande North.” The company is leasing more than 26,000 acres off Nueces County for its “Mustang Project.” If fully developed, the sites taken together could generate up to 3 gigawatts of electricity. One gigawatt equals 1 billion watts.

The USACE’s decision to order a full EIS comes as no surprise to Baryonyx officials. Mark Leyland, vice president for offshore projects, said he fully expected the USACE to call for it and in fact Baryonyx welcomes the move given the magnitude of the project.

An EIS is the most thorough type of environmental review the USACE can demand. The National Environment Policy Act requires it in the case of actions “significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.” An Environmental Assessment, which is done first to assess the need for an EIS, is sometimes all that’s required in projects that may or may not cause significant impact.

Leyland said the USACE will select the third-party contractor that will conduct the EIS, and the USACE will control the process, though the contract itself will be between Baryonyx and the contractor. He added that “the process is very much the Corps’ from now on.” Leyland said that contrary to what some have asserted, taxpayers aren’t footing the bill for the EIS.

“We pay for the environmental contractor that operates under the direction of the Corps to develop the Environmental Impact Statement,” he said.

The study will examine, among other things, the potential impact on migratory birds, bats, sea turtles and other marine life. The EIS will take two years to prepare, with the final draft likely to be submitted to the USACE in the first quarter of 2014. Construction on the wind farm wouldn’t begin until 2015 at the earliest.

Leyland and other Baryonyx executives came from Eclipse Energy, a British firm that developed the Ormonde wind farm project in the Irish Sea. That project, nearing completion, uses the largest wind turbines available, rated at 5 megawatts each though capable of producing more, according to Leyland. One megawatt equals 1 million watts.

Baryonyx’s Texas projects would use the same turbines on a much larger scale. The Ormonde Project calls for 30 turbines on 2,500 acres. Baryonyx’s Rio Grande and Rio Grande South leases, totaling roughly 41,00 acres, would feature rows of more than 300 turbines, each set of 50 taking two years to build. Leyland said turbines would be located no nearer than five miles from the coast, still close enough for them to be seen.

In a press release, Leyland expressed confidence that the EIS would confirm the company’s initial investigations, which concluded the wind farm project “would not result in an unacceptable impact on wildlife and other resources.”

“We believe that the thorough, scientific approach required by the EIS process will verify our preliminary findings,” he said.

By Steve Clark (brownsvilleherald)

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Countdown to DesertXpress begins

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March 28, 2011

States and regions across the country are working tirelessly to realize President Obama’s vision for American high-speed rail.  And on Friday, I had the pleasure of joining Nevada Senator Harry Reid to announce that construction on the DesertXpress corridor between Las Vegas and Southern California will soon get underway.

The DesertXpress project cleared a major hurdle last Friday when the Federal Railroad Administration released its final environmental impact statement.

DesertXpress promises travel times of 85 minutes between Victorville, California, and Las Vegas, Nevada.  This cuts the existing drive–three hours under the best conditions and nearly twice as long in traffic–in half.  Sitting in congestion for four, five and even six hours along I-15 is especially brutal for travelers paying sky high gas prices.

But high-speed rail means much more than a shorter trip from California to Las Vegas.  It means jobs, and it means reinvigorated American manufacturing.

Already, 30 rail companies from around the world have pledged that, if they’re selected for high-speed rail contracts, they will hire American workers and expand their bases of operations in the United States.  And the administration’s 100 percent “Buy America” requirement will generate a powerful ripple effect throughout the supply chain.

Just think about the possibility.  Factory workers building electric-powered trains.  Engineers laying new track.  Conductors, operators and ticket-takers helping passengers speed to their destinations.  Americans of every trade advancing down the track to a better future.

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With US Senator Harry Reid and Nevada Department of Transportation Director Susan Martinovich

And those are just the direct ripple-effects.  High-speed rail also means economic development.  As Nevada Senator Harry Reid said:

“This announcement brings us one small step away from tens of thousands of new jobs not only through the project’s construction, but by boosting our tourism.  This line will connect tourists from southern California to our state’s great attractions like the Las Vegas Strip and the Hoover Dam. This announcement is excellent news for our state’s economic recovery.”

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With US Senator Harry Reid announcing the DesertXpress EIS release

DesertXpress will give people a safe, convenient transportation alternative to the notoriously congested I-15.   And in a time of enormous economic challenge, it will create quality jobs.

This is the promise high-speed rail offers communities across the country.  This is how America wins the future.

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