‘Cradle to grave’

New report estimates natural gas project’s impact

Posted 5/17/23

BRISTOL, PA — A proposed natural gas project that spans Pennsylvania and New Jersey would result in greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to driving two million gas-powered cars per year for 25 …

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‘Cradle to grave’

New report estimates natural gas project’s impact


BRISTOL, PA — A proposed natural gas project that spans Pennsylvania and New Jersey would result in greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to driving two million gas-powered cars per year for 25 years, according to a report commissioned by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN).

The report, carried out by Synapse Energy Economics Inc., analyzed the total impact of a proposed, “unprecedented” fossil fuel project that includes the construction of a natural gas liquefaction facility in Wyalusing, PA and an export terminal located nearly 200 miles south in Gibbstown, NJ.

In 2021, the Riverkeeper Network was one of several dozen activist groups that urged the interstate Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) not to greenlight the export terminal’s construction. Despite their efforts, however, the commission approved the terminal unanimously, aside from New York, which abstained.

Since that vote, the project has experienced numerous setbacks and delays. Just last month, the Department of Transportation denied the project a special permit to transport its liquefied natural gas (LNG) by rail.

The proposed project is unique, the report reads, because four different energy companies—New Fortress Energy, Delaware River Partner, Energy Transport Solutions and Bradford County LNG Marketing—have individually proposed steps of the plan. The report noted it’s also unusual for the liquefaction facility and export terminal to be located so far apart.

Tracy Carluccio, DRN deputy director, said this strategy of “segmentation” is an effort to evade regulatory review of the overall project.

“One of the strategies used… in the development of this project was to break the pieces of the project apart, hide some aspects of it from the public, and even from government agencies,” Carluccio said during a webinar. “It’s actually illegal under environmental laws.”

Sourced from fracked gas from Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale, the LNG’s final destination would likely be import terminals in Ireland and Puerto Rico, according to the report. 

Synapse estimated how much greenhouse gas would be emitted at every stage of this proposed project, from construction, to extraction, to transportation, to the natural gas’s end-use combustion. The final stage of combustion accounted for more than 80 percent of the estimated emissions. In second place, the intensive process of turning natural gas into its liquid form accounted for about 12 percent of the overall emissions.

Carbon dioxide and methane—the primary component of natural gas—were the two primary greenhouse gases analyzed. Carbon remains in the atmosphere for thousands of years, while methane is far more potent in a shorter period. Over a 20-year timeline, one metric ton of methane is 83 times more impactful than that of carbon, according to the U.N. Environment Program.

Synapse concluded that, when considered together as one large-scale project, the proposed Gibbstown/Wyalusing facilities would be counterproductive to the Pennsylvania and New Jersey’s public goals of reducing their greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years. The report also recommends that decision-makers consider the potential health and safety risks associated with natural gas liquefaction and transportation. The report projected the “social cost of carbon” associated with the project at around $53 billion.

“Because this project involves transporting LNG by train and truck between two different locations, there’s a lot of uncertainty around this, because it is a relatively new and untested method of LNG transport,” said Jackie Litynski, a research associate with Synapse. “This poses additional risks to local residents, in part because they can inhale co-pollutants from these modes of transportation, as well as because there could be disastrous results if these LNG trucks and trains face collision.”

To get from Wyalusing to Gibbstown, the natural gas would need to travel through some of the most populated areas of the East Coast, like Camden and Philadelphia.

Transporting LNG by rail is controversial on its own, and the recent train derailment in East Palestine, OH has only heightened safety concerns. The Trump administration in 2020 loosened regulations governing LNG transport by rail, something that may be undone by the Biden administration.

In late 2021, DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration proposed halting the transportation of LNG along railroad tracks, but this rule has not yet been finalized, and it’s unclear whether it will be.

In the meantime, opponents of the Gibbstown/Wyalusing project are pointing to the findings of this report and continuing to demand that state and federal leaders stop it in its tracks.

“On the one side [government officials] recognize the climate crisis as an existential threat, on the other they continue to approve more and more projects spewing climate changing emissions to the atmosphere,” DRN director Maya van Rossum said. “It’s time for government to stop their willful ignorance, with the Wyalusing-Gibbstown LNG project being a good place to start.”

delaware riverkeeper network, lng export terminal, wyalusing, gibbstown, delaware river, natural gas, fracking, snyapse, report, greenhouse gas emissions


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