Federal agency delays final environmental review of Alaska’s gasline project

Nikiski, Alaska, where the Alaska LNG project plans to site a liquefaction facility at the end of an 800-mile long pipeline bringing natural gas from the North Slope to tidewater before exporting it to markets in Asia. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission announced on Feb. 28, 2019, that it is pushing back the timeline to finish an environmental review and authorization to build for the megaproject. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/Alaska’s Energy Desk)

The federal agency reviewing Alaska’s ambitious North-Slope-to-Asia LNG export project has pushed back the timeline for finishing that review.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, announced on Feb. 28 that it has pushed back the deadline for its final decision by four months.

“The new schedule indicates that the final permit for the Alaska LNG project will be delivered in June of 2020,” said Alaska Gasline Development Corporation spokesperson Tim Fitzpatrick.

In its notice, staff at FERC attributed the delay to the state’s gasline corporation. The corporation has filed hundreds of thousands of pages of environmental and engineering data to the federal agency — all in the quest to get that final permit to build the 800-mile long pipeline and plant.

But the federal commission is still waiting for information on everything from fire safety and underwater pipeline crossings to maps showing seismic hazards near the pipeline.

A final decision from the federal commission is contingent upon the state corporation providing all of the data that it wants — so the schedule could still be revised.

The $43 billion project has seen some upheaval in the last few months. Negotiations with potential buyers and investors in China were scheduled to end in December. That deadline passed with no deal.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy took office and then shook up the corporation’s board. That board then fired the corporation’s president in January.

Dunleavy’s budget team also wants to claw back about $5 million given to the state corporation last year.

Rashah McChesney is a photojournalist turned radio journalist who has been telling stories in Alaska since 2012. Before joining Alaska's Energy Desk , she worked at Kenai's Peninsula Clarion and the Juneau bureau of the Associated Press. She is a graduate of Iowa State University's Greenlee Journalism School and has worked in public television, newspapers and now radio, all in the quest to become the Swiss Army knife of storytellers.

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