Vote Delays New Jersey’s Planned First LNG Terminal on Delaware River

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Plans for a proposed liquefied natural gas terminal to be located on the Delaware River were again stalled today as the commission overseeing the river voted to delay its initial approval of the project pending an appeal from an environmental group. The proposed project would be New Jersey’s first LNG export terminal on the Delaware River.

Initially approved in June 2019, the plan calls for the construction of a 1,600-foot pier at the Gibbstown Logistic Center on the New Jersey side of the Delaware River not far from the Philadelphia International Airport. The Delaware River Basin Commission, made of representatives from four states that border the river and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, had granted initial approvals related to the dredging of the Delaware River to 43 feet and the building of the terminal. 

Due to additional protests from environmental and community groups, the DRBC later agreed to hold additional hearings to provide the Delaware Riverkeeper Network the opportunity to argue for a change in the approval. DRN, an environmental group, has argued against the increased traffic on the river as well as from the transport of the LNG and the environmental dangers. They contend the site would also increase air pollution and has the risk of explosion.

Under the plan put forth by New Fortress Energy, a second pier would be added to the facility built at the location of a former explosives plant. They had first proposed to create a single general-purpose pier for automobiles, cargo, propane, and butane. The second pier would be dedicated to the export of LNG being produced at the company’s liquefaction plant which is part of the contentious fracking process located on the Marcellus Shale fields in northern Pennsylvania. The fracking process has also been the center of numerous environmental challenges and became embroiled in political debates.

One of the issues that the environmentalists and residents have also raised is the transport of the gas from the facility in northern Pennsylvania to the terminal. It would be through heavily populated regions they contend and the truck traffic would create a danger to the residents. At the end of 2019, with the support of the Trump administration, the project was also issued the nation’s first LNG by rail permit to move the gas from the liquefaction plant to the terminal.

Construction on the terminal, which generally has been supported by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, could have begun as early as this month. The Engineers had previously issued a delay in the construction due to the potential impact on two species of fish in the river.

During its regularly scheduled meeting, the Delaware River Basin Commission representatives from New York, New Jersey, and Delaware voted in favor of the delay while Pennsylvania abstained from the vote. The Army Corps of Engineers voted against the delay. The commission has previously noted that it has not withdrawn its approval, but under its processes was giving the groups time to make their appeals for a reversal of the decision. In addition, a collation of environmental groups is appealing the rail transportation permit granted by the federal government.

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