Expansion began last month at the massive LNG facility on Elba Island even though a request for a rehearing of the project’s approval is still pending before federal regulators.
Houston-based Kinder Morgan owns the LNG import facility on the Savannah River where site work began Nov. 1 with the ultimate goal of adding export capability. The $2.3 billion project includes the installation of 10 modular units that will convert gaseous methane to a liquid, reducing its volume 600-fold and making it suitable for export in specially designed tanker ships.
A steady stream of 325 dump trucks a day six days a week now ferries fill and gravel to the site. That rate of nearly 8,000 trucks a month is expected to continue through April.
“The first stage is expected to last about six months, and we are now one month into the work of delivering fill material to Elba Island,” Kinder Morgan spokesman Richard Wheatley wrote in an email. “Following completion of this initial stage, we estimate truck traffic volume will decline to a level of about 1,500 trucks per month versus the current level. Trucks operate during the daylight hours, six days a week, Monday-Saturday.”
Causton Bluff resident Bill Thomas’ house backs up to Elba, giving him a clear view of the construction traffic on Elba Island Road.
“Sometimes there’s as many as four trucks bumper to bumper,” he said.
The dump trucks are bringing in 375,000 cubic yards of fill and gravel from local sources, including Martin Marietta and Lanyard Development. They are taking two routes: Interstate 16, Lynes Parkway, DeRenne Avenue, Truman Parkway to the island; and Interstate 95, Abercorn Street, Truman to Islands Expressway.
The routes are planned to avoid downtown Savannah and peak traffic hours, Wheatley said.
As the trucks roll in, opponents of the expansion find themselves in a regulatory limbo. In early August federal regulators postponed a decision on their request to take a more in-depth look at the environmental consequences of the project. The local chapter of the Sierra Club and others hold that the health, safety and property risks posed by the addition of liquefaction to the 86-billion gallon storage facility were not adequately addressed in the environmental assessment.
That postponement from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission comes with no deadline for making that decision, and it does not prevent Kinder Morgan from moving forward. It does, however, prevent the project’s opponents from bringing legal action. Regulations require a decision on a rehearing before they can file a lawsuit.
It’s a catch-22, said Stacey Kronquest, an executive committee member of the Coastal Group Sierra Club.
“The tolling order means they can indefinitely consider the request while the project is being built, she said. “This isn’t due process; we can’t do anything here.”
She’d prefer an outright denial of the rehearing request.
“A denial is fine, so we can proceed with the administrative process of appealing,” Kronquest said. “The law states we have to have an answer to the rehearing request before can move on.”
Kronquest along with three other local residents wrote to their Congressional representatives for assistance in bringing this conundrum to FERC’s attention. U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, a Republican, responded by restating the problem.
“An official of FERC tells my staff the order you are referring to does not mean a rehearing was granted. It simply extends the time for FERC to consider their request. … In addition, this order does not stay action on the project. This means that other orders authorizing work can be granted and acted upon.”
Kronquest replied, telling Carter he misunderstood.
“Our request to you was not to explain this to us, but rather, as our representative in Congress, to urge the Commission to fulfill its due process obligations to your constituents by issuing a timely final order on our rehearing requests.”
She hasn’t heard back.
Both U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson and U.S. Sen. David Perdue did understand the request, however. The senators’ offices forwarded the concerns to FERC, requesting a review of the information.
Federal regulators gave Elba a general go-ahead in June and then in October gave specific approval to begin site work including preparation of the upland area, relocation of a containment area to hold dredge materials and the testing of piles.
On Friday a permitted, controlled burn of debris from Hurricane Matthew sent black smoke into the air over the site. Contractor Tri-County Construction Co. has already removed half of the debris. Georgia Forestry Commission and Chatham County supplied burn permits for an 8-acre area. Tri-County expects to complete the burning by Dec. 13, said Environmental Protection Division spokesman Kevin Chambers.
Concern about the number of trucks traveling in and out of the site during construction led to a plan by Kinder Morgan to bring in aggregate fill by barge. That’s not happening. The company abandoned that plan, instead opting to route the truck traffic so as to avoid Bay Street. Pilings are being delivered by barge but they represent a smaller portion of the deliveries.
The initial phase of work at Elba also includes the demolition of five buildings on site, Wheatley said.
The project overall is expected to be completed in early 2019, with initial liquefaction units scheduled to go into service in mid-2018. The finished expansion will include 10 “moveable modular liquefaction units” with a total liquefaction capacity of 350,000 million cubic feet per day, ancillary equipment to support the liquefaction process plus pumps and compression for delivery into the tanks and loading of ships.
Elba’s liquefaction project is supported by a 20-year contract with Shell to export the LNG. Shell also developed the train-car sized liquefaction units, which Elba will be the first facility to install.
With over 30 years of handling catastrophic injury cases I am often contacted by friends and family of someone who just had a horrible injury or even death in the family.
I am always at a loss of how I can respond to their concerns about the spouse or the children of the victim.
I as an attorney and they as a family member do not want to intrude on the grief or the hectic situation that often turns the family upside down.
But sadly I often see 3 situations
1) The defendant (frequently an insurance company or trucking company or other corporation) are busy gathering or hiding or destroying evidence.
This includes things like locating and interviewing witnesses, taping over or losing videos and disposing of property damage.
It is very frustrating because I know our investigator and attorneys could be protecting their rights, while they are attending to their loved ones medical situations, children, loss of income in the household, a destroyed car or worse funeral arrangements.
Why are people made to feel sleazy if they have a lawyer working for them immediately after a tragedy?
Meanwhile insurance companies and businesses are expected to have a team of lawyers and experts, 24/7 and often at the scene before first-responders.
Recently we had a catastrophically injured client crushed by a fallen object. The defendants removed the object before the ambulance picked up our client!
2) Unethical attorneys and hired runners are contacting and soliciting people who they don't know often at the hospitals in the ER or places that they aren't thinking straight.
The scariest part is the lawyers who engage in this kind of conduct are usually the least experienced or most ill equipped to handle such a serious case.
3) Many people make the decision of hiring a lawyer based on a TV or other marketing strategy.
All I will say is that after 30+ years of litigating serious cases, I have never seen a lawyer who does heavy TV marketing in the court house.
Trust me adjusters don't pay top dollars to non-trial attorneys.
Have you ever seen a TV lawyer talking about a record jury verdict? Nope they brag on $100K settlements (in the type of wrecks that we collect millions).
Many times we have been hired after the client fires such low skilled lawyers and we find additional insurance coverage missed by the first lawyer.
I wish I could accomplish 2 things:
1) Find an acceptable way for people to communicate with their family and loved ones about getting an experienced lawyer immediately after a tragedy.
or better yet
2) Convince people to do research and their due diligence and make a lawyer selection in advance "just in case of tragedy"; like they do for estate planning and other important decisions.
I guess I can dream.
Please watch this short video to learn more:
WINNING YOUR CASE: 21 Questions You MUST ASK Before Hiring a Lawyer
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