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NY State Okays Liquefied Natural Gas Storage Without Full Public Review

On January 28, 2015, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”) finalized regulations that will allow permitting of new liquefied natural gas (“LNG”) storage facilities for the first time since 1973, when a catastrophic explosion at a LNG storage facility on Staten Island resulted in the deaths of 40 workers. DEC implemented the regulations despite receiving over 57,000 comments from the public, the large majority of which were opposed to the regulations.

Given the well-documented threat of explosion or fire resulting from LNG storage operations, the New York Public Interest Research Group (“NYPRG”) and Riverkeeper are disappointed that DEC failed to comply with its obligations under the Liquefied Natural and Petroleum Gas Act (“LNGPA”) and the State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”) to complete full public safety and environmental reviews before implementing the regulations. New York’s tragic history with LNG and the State Legislature’s determination that LNG storage is “hazardous” due to LNG’s “extreme volatility, high flammability, and dangerous qualities” discredit DEC’s determination that siting of new LNG storage facilities would not have a single significant public health or environmental impact.

As a result of DEC’s failure to comply with LNGPA or SEQRA, it has implemented regulations that are insufficient to protect New York communities. NYPIRG and Riverkeeper are most concerned that:

  • DEC failed to comply with the statutory directive to conduct an “investigation that will establish “maximum safety” criteria, if possible, for the safe siting of LNG storage facilities;
  • Despite setting a 70,000 gallon storage volume cap on LNG facilities, DEC stated publicly that the cap is temporary and the agency “will consider modification of the facility capacity limit in a future rulemaking;”
  • DEC did not set forth criteria by which the state Department of Transportation can certify LNG transportation routes are safe, as required by LNGPA; and
  • DEC failed to ensure that the regulations governing LNG storage will also govern LNG production facilities that present unique regulatory and public safety challenges.

“Though more than a decade in the making, DEC’s LNG regulations do not comply with the stringent requirements that the Legislature established in the wake of the tragic Staten Island LNG explosion that claimed forty lives in 1973,” said NYPIRG attorney Russ Haven. “The only change made in response to 57,000 public comments, the 70,000 gallon storage volume cap, is a huge disappointment and still falls far short of protecting public safety, health and the environment.”

“By sticking its head in the sand and ignoring potential threats, DEC is gambling with the lives and health of New Yorkers,” said Riverkeeper Staff Attorney Michael Dulong. “We deserve the robust and open investigation into LNG storage safety risks that our State Legislature has deemed necessary.”

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