The Department of the Interior announced decisions for the Alaska Liquified Natural Gas (Alaska LNG) Pipeline Project, approving the issuance of rights-of-way permits across federal lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and National Park Service (NPS). These decisions, which adopt the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) environmental impact statement (EIS), establish the environmental protections for wetlands, wildlife, recreation access and other resources that will govern access for a liquified natural gas pipeline; a major step in the permit process for the project.
The Alaska Gasline Development Corporation is seeking permits to construct and operate the Alaska LNG project, which would transport natural gas for export to foreign markets and provide for in-state gas deliveries. Access across Federal lands is required for approximately 230 miles of the 807-mile pipeline. These lands are mostly managed by the BLM, and most of the affected acreage is in the Dalton Highway/Trans-Alaska Pipeline corridor, which is managed primarily as a utility and transportation corridor. The project includes a gas treatment plant at Prudhoe Bay, a 42-inch diameter pipeline, and a liquefaction facility and export terminal in Nikiski, Alaska.
The NPS is issuing a right-of-way for the approximately six-mile portion of pipeline within a non-wilderness area of the Denali National Park and Preserve (DNPP). The route selected through the park is near the existing transportation corridor (the Parks Highway and Alaska Railroad extend across this area of the park), which limits impacts to park viewsheds and overall acreage of wetlands, and reduces the need for additional roads and their associated impacts. The Denali National Park Improvement Act of 2013, as amended by the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act of 2019, authorized a right-of-way permit for the natural gas transmission pipeline in non-wilderness areas within Denali National Park. Per the Act, the NPS may only issue a right-of-way permit consistent with the laws and regulations governing these right-of-way permits in the national park system, and only if the right-of-way is the route through Denali Park with the least adverse environmental effects.
While FERC is the lead agency, under Title 41 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, better known as FAST-41, it was determined there should be one EIS for the project with each federal agency relevant to the project contributing to the EIS development. In a FAST-41 project, each agency produces a record of decision, as necessary. In all, there are nine cooperating federal agencies, including the BLM, NPS, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service.
The BLM and NPS each plan to issue a right-of-way permit to the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation in the near future.