Friday, February 3, 2017

A liquefied natural gas pipeline threatens Puerto Rico's Jobos Bay

A liquefied natural gas pipeline threatens Puerto Rico's Jobos Bay.
Hilda Lloréns, PhD


                                         Image Source: Excelerate Energy

The pending construction and operation of the Aguirre Offshore GasPort, a 4.1-mile-long natural gas subsea pipeline, poses a looming environmental threat to Puerto Rico’s Jobos Bay. The Federal Regulatory Commission’s environmental impact statement found that the pipeline would result in moderate adverse environmental impacts. But worried about the bay's health local residents and environmental activists disagree with the commission's assessment. 

                    Image Source: Excelerate Energy


The communities and ecosystems that comprise the Jobos Bay are besieged by environmental degradation. The region offers a clear case of a faraway community, away from the public eye, where environmental injustice has historically been enacted. The Aguirre Offshore GasPort is the latest example of this practice. Environmental groups and residents have been opposed to the plan since its inception. 

The Jobos Bay is Puerto Rico’s second largest estuary that is a source of nutrients, critical nursery, and refuge for local marine life. The Bay and the surrounding estuarine areas are a significant resource for small-scale fishers and foragers.The construction and operation of Aguirre Offshore GasPort would be destructive to the Bay’s ecological health. It would also prove harmful to fishers and community residents. Furthermore, methane leakage is common to natural gas pipelines and is a known source of greenhouse emissions. Hydrogen sulfide, a soluble component of natural gas is known to cause disturbances in the chemical composition of surface waters and to have adverse effects on the health of marine life and local human populations. Drilling, storage, and transportation accidents are not uncommon to natural gas and oil pipelines. 

                                 Image Source: Excelerate Energy

In August 2015, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the final authorization for the project. Shortly thereafter, Diálogo Ambiental, a local environmental group submitted appeals t
o DC's and PR's U.S. Court of Appeals of the decisions made by Puerto Rico's Oficina de Gerencias de Permisos (OGPe) and the Planning Commission (Junta de Planificación). A decision on the case is expected by or on February 11, 2017.

Update: Regarding the Aguirre GasPort decision issued on 2/10/17: "The PR Energy Commission issued the order on PREPA's motion for reconsideration in the IRP case. In general terms, it DENIES PREPA's motion with a big proviso that it is not approving or denying the AOGP project at this time but will start a separate proceeding for that."


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