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US regulator: New Fortress Port of SJ terminal was built without its consent

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) announced that New Fortress Energy’s Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Terminal in the Port of San Juan was built and is currently incompliant with the Federal Natural Gas Law.

In a 27-page order on a case dating to June 2020, the regulator determined that it has jurisdiction over the LNG port and that if New Fortress wants to continue operating the facility it built, it must file an application for authorization within 180 days of its Mar. 19, 2021 release.

New Fortress Energy built and operates an LNG facility in the port of San Juan, which it reaches through a floating storage unit that is semi-permanently moored at the harbor. The shuttle vessels deliver LNG onshore through several hoses, which is then distributed via trucks and through direct connections with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA).

The company contends that it is not under the FERC’s jurisdiction because it does not receive or deliver LNG through a pipeline, nor does it use bulk-carrier LNG tankers, and that it does not have enough physical elements to “constitute natural gas facilities as commonly understood by the Commission and the regulated community,” according to the order.

The federal agency is requiring New Fortress to submit a request to determine whether to authorize the operation of the terminal.

New Fortress Energy Spokesman Jake Suski said the company “will work quickly with FERC through the certification process. Importantly, the decision does not disrupt operations and allows the facility to continue to provide significant fuel cost savings and emissions reductions for the benefit of the people of Puerto Rico.”

The FERC’s decision responds to multiple claims and actions from the communities near the unauthorized New Fortress Terminal, as well as Puerto Rican religious, environmental, and civil groups. The organizations that make up the Renewable Energy Now Alliance (AERA, in Spanish) and other entities warned the federal regulator about the danger posed by the “highly explosive and polluting New Fortress LNG Terminal.”

New Fortress began the construction and operation of the terminal in the Port of San Juan to supply methane gas to Units 5 and 6 of the PREPA power plant in Puerto Nuevo and to private companies.

The units were converted to dual fuel capability in April 2020 and, since their conversion, have been running predominantly on natural gas in place of diesel, New Fortress stated.

But AERA representatives argue that New Fortress built the terminal without complying with the requirement to prepare a location consultation and with no opportunity for nearby communities and affected groups to participate in public hearings.

“We feel some relief to know that at last we are going to begin to intervene with this situation that worries us because we don’t want another accident to occur like Capeco or Humberto Vidal. You cannot wait for a tragedy to occur and then take action. All lives are precious, and people deserve to feel safe where they live,” said Sary N. Rosario, a resident of Puerto Nuevo Norte.

The volatility of methane gas exposes vulnerable communities to explosion accident risks, as the closest residences to the New Fortress terminal are approximately 400 meters away from this facility. Similarly, the burning of methane gas causes respiratory problems, including asthma, among other adverse effects on the health of residents, which is especially dangerous in times of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rosario said.

The AERA organizations and different sectors of the country have voiced their concerns regarding the health and safety risks that this operation represents, especially for the communities of Sabana, Amelia and Vietnam in Guaynabo, and for the Borinquen and Puerto Nuevo Norte neighborhoods of San Juan.

“People who live near this terminal have legitimate concerns regarding their life and health,” said Rosario. “This is a matter of eco-justice for the communities and also of climate justice, since the burning of fossil fuels such as methane gas contributes to the dire consequences of the climate crisis.”

New Fortress claims that the FERC’s decision found that it is in the public interest for its facility to remain operational through the certification process and acknowledged that the company went through multiple federal and local permit and approval processes.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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