Gulf of Mexico
Proposed site of the Venture Global Plaquemines LNG Terminal. (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission)

Plaquemines oil export terminal gets state’s initial approval

NEW ORLEANS -- A proposed $2.5 billion, 20-million-barrel crude oil export terminal to be built in Plaquemines Parish adjacent to the state’s planned $1.4 billion Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion “is not inconsistent” with the coastal Master Plan, state coastal officials have decided.

Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Chairman Chip Kline confirmed late Thursday (April 25) that a letter with the decision will be sent to the Department of Natural Resources in the next day or so -- a key step for the terminal in gaining a final determination from the state that it is consistent with the Master Plan, as required under state law.

State officials promised to send the letter as part of an agreement signed Wednesday involving the CPRA, the Plaquemines Port and Harbor Terminal District and Plaquemines Liquids Terminal LLC, the owner of the proposed terminal project.

The final version of the agreement requires the “not inconsistent” letter to be filed with DNR, which is overseeing state permits for the terminal on the west bank of the Mississippi River, “contemporaneously” with the signing of the memo. Kline said the letter was being drafted Thursday and would be filed when complete.

CPRA is required to conduct a consistency determination by a state law aimed at protecting major coastal restoration and hurricane protection projects from the impact of economic development.

Under the terms of the deal, the state, port agency and the terminal must still agree to a more detailed agreement that is likely to spell out restrictions on how the terminal’s docking facilities are built to assure the facility does not reduce the amount of sediment captured by the diversion or cause other environmental problems, such as oil spills, that could affect wetlands in nearby Barataria Bay.

A negative consistency determination by CPRA could kill the project.

Under the terms of the memorandum of understanding agreed upon this week, CPRA can either outline ways for the terminal to avoid impacts on the diversion, or it can cancel the agreement and its commitment to look favorably on finding the project consistent with the Master Plan.

The final version of the memo also includes more clear language about the state’s liability in the event its decisions result in financial impacts or a cancellation of the terminal.

Kline said the state also has agreed to have AECOM, a contracting firm overseeing design of the diversion, conduct a study called for by the memo that would determine the project’s docking facilities’ effects on sediment flowing into the diversion, and similar effects of the huge ocean-going vessels that are expected to call at the terminal.

The terminal company will pay for the study, Kline said.

The terminal is being designed in anticipation of the Mississippi River being dredged to allow ships with drafts of minus 50 feet to dock, which is 5 feet deeper than ships that can now use the river.

The terminal is a joint project of the port district, Tallgrass Energy LP, and Drexel Hamilton, a Philadelphia-based investment firm. It would receive oil from a 700-mile, 30-inch-wide Seahorse Pipeline that would run from Cushing, Okla., to an unnamed location in St. James Parish, and then south to the terminal. Some oil would be moved to the terminal by rail.

In a statement issued Friday, the state’s decision to give preliminary approval was praised by Tallgrass Terminals general manager Jason Reeves.

“Plaquemines Liquids Terminal LLC has been -- and will continue to be -- committed to being a good neighbor in Louisiana,” Reeves said. “The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority found that our project is consistent with the Master Plan, which we view as validation of our intent to minimize and mitigate any affect PLT might have on the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion project. We respect the diligence and thoroughness that CPRA displayed throughout this process. CPRA truly is a strong advocate for the state of Louisiana and its residents, and we look forward to working with them to bring progressive economic development to the region.”

A Tallgrass official said Friday that the $2.5 billion cost estimate for the project is preliminary and includes both the terminal facilities and the Seahorse Pipeline.

Read full article . . .