2013-10-18 / Top Stories

Feds Give Okay To Rockaway Pipeline Project

By Katie McFadden

The Rockaway Delivery Lateral Project, better known as the Rockaway pipeline, got a favorable draft report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently regarding the impact the project would have on the environment.

FERC issued a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) about the project on October 4th. The Transco pipeline project, being developed by energy infrastructure company, Williams, consists of a 3.2-mile, 26-inchdiameter pipeline that would connect with a 26-inch lateral pipeline project proposed by National Grid and Transco’s existing 26-inch Lower New York Bay Lateral pipeline in the Atlantic Ocean. The pipeline being proposed would run from the Atlantic Ocean, beneath Jacob Riis Park and under Jamaica Bay to Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. The 3.2-mile pipeline includes 2.9 miles of offshore pipeline and 0.3 miles of onshore pipeline.

The project also requires a metering and regulation station (M&R) to be built. The company has proposed to build this component inside one of the airport hangars in Floyd Bennett Field.

The entire project, with the Transco and National Grid components, would allow for the delivery of 647 thousand dekatherms per day of natural gas to National Grid’s distribution system in Brooklyn and Queens. The Rockaway Delivery Lateral Project would be a new delivery point that would send more natural gas to National Grid, which currently provides natural gas to the boroughs.

A section of National Grid’s pipeline was installed near Fort Tilden in April. National Grid’s project did not need to undergo a federal environmental review. It was reviewed under the New York City Environmental Quality Review Act and was approved by the City in December 2011.

Transco is an interstate natural gas transmission pipeline, so it is subject to the jurisdiction of FERC. Williams was hoping to start the project by September 2013, but FERC said the final environmental impact statement won’t be released until February 2014 and a final decision wouldn’t be made until a 90-day comment period is over at the end of May.

In its draft EIS, FERC gave a favorable report for Transco and came to a conclusion that the environmental impact wouldn’t be so bad. The “construction and operation of the Projects would result in limited adverse environmental impacts that would mostly occur during construction,” the EIS said. Overall it says that the limited adverse impacts “would be reduced to less-than-significant levels with the implementation of Transco’s proposed mitigation and the additional measures recommended in the draft EIS.”

FERC reviewed the impact that the Rockaway Lateral Pipeline Project would have on geology, soils, groundwater, surface water, wetlands, vegetation, wildlife and aquatic resources, fisheries, special status species, land use and visual resources, socioeconomics (including transportation and traffic), cultural resources, air quality and noise, and reliability and safety.

The agency found significant issues that they were concerned about including the “impact on marine wildlife and Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) due to pile driving and other effects associated with offshore construction; impact on special status species, including marine mammals; impact on cultural resource sites, particularly the historic airplane hangar complex that would house the M&R facility; cumulative impact; and air quality and noise impact.”

Transco says that it would take the proper steps to mitigate the environmental impact in each situation, would work with various governmental agencies and would obtain all of the required federal authorizations prior to starting construction. For instance, when it comes to concerns about the impact on marine wildlife and the EFH due to pile driving, Transco says it will use mitigation measures like horizontal directional drilling and it would minimize its impact on local fish species.

When it comes to adding the M&R station in the airport hangar, Transco will work with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to ensure that the hangar isn’t damaged during construction and that it will be rehabilitated.

Regarding the impacts with which the FERC is most concerned, the agency recommended additional mitigation measures to reduce these impacts. “We developed 27 site-specific mitigation measures that Transco should implement to further reduce the environmental impacts that would otherwise result from construction of the Projects. We are recommending that these mitigation measures be attached as conditions to any authorization issued by the Commission,” FERC says in the report.

FERC says it considered alternative locations for the various components of the project, but determined that placing the components in any other areas would cause an even greater environmental impact. “We have determined that the Projects, as modified by our recommended mitigation measures, are preferable to any of the alternatives evaluated,” the report says.

Williams finds the outcome of the draft report to be quite favorable. “We are very pleased with the findings reflected in the draft Environmental Impact Statement. This is another significant milestone for the project,” a Williams spokesperson said. “We look forward to the issuance of the final Environmental Impact Statement in early 2014. Williams is committed to working to ensure that the Rockaway Delivery Lateral is constructed in a responsible, environmentally sensitive manner so that we can deliver much-needed additional natural gas supply to New York City to help it meet its clean air goals.”

While Williams is pleased with the report, environmentalists are not satisfied. Dan Mundy, president of the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers says the “report downplays the significance of the environmental impacts.” Mundy explained concerns over the fact that Transco hasn’t stated exactly what fluids will be involved with the project, which is significant as they will likely wind up in the water and may affect marine life. He also says that the company hasn’t released a modeling report which would show where sediments would go when the company trenches the ocean to install the pipeline. Mundy explains that sediment could impact an important artificial reef off the coast of Rockaway. Transco has been asked to release the sediment report for several months.

“The EIS report, as it’s done right now, is downplaying that significant impact and we’re concerned by that,” Mundy said. “It doesn’t include critical data.” He went on to say that the project should be put on hold. If it does go through and causes the mentioned environmental impacts, Mundy hopes the company considers restoring the areas that are impacted.

The public has an opportunity to comment on the draft EIS until November 25, 2013. The entire document can be found on www.ferc.gov. Comments can be made electronically through the eComment or eFiling features of the website under “Documents and Filings.” When writing a comment, refer to docket number CP13-36-000 for the Rockaway Project. Written comments can also be sent to Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First Street NE, Room 1A, Washington, DC 20426. For those who want to voice their concerns in person, FERC will be holding public meetings on October 22nd at the Knights of Columbus at 333 Beach 90th Street and on October 23rd at Aviator Sports Center in Brooklyn. Both meetings start at 7 p.m.

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