Environmentalists have stepped up alarms about a major fuel export terminal in South Jersey that they say will accelerate Pennsylvania fracking, worsen climate change, and attract 100-car trains carrying dangerous liquefied natural gas across Philadelphia.
A plan to build the Gibbstown Logistics Center in Gloucester County, N.J., just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia International Airport, appears to be coming to a head by the end of the year. A hearing examiner and the staff of the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) have recommended approving permits to dredge the river and to build a pier for the $450 million private port, which is being built on the site of DuPont's former Repauno Works in Greenwich Township, N.J.
The DRBC, an interstate agency that regulates river development, voted on Sept. 10 to delay a decision at least until its next business meeting in December. But the commission will be hard-pressed to reverse its unanimous approval last year of the project, which has also received permits from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
"We are confident that after the commissioners complete their review of the record they will concur with the hearing officer's recommendations and reaffirm their prior approval," Jeff Sheridan, a spokesperson for the terminal's developer, Delaware River Partners LLC, said in a statement.
"The project has been through extensive environmental and regulatory review processes and has received approval from multiple federal, state and local agencies," said Sheridan. "When the project begins, it will provide much needed job opportunities and significant growth to the local tax base."
The private port is designed for multiple purposes - to receive imported automobiles or as a potential staging area for companies to erect and service wind turbines off New Jersey's shore. But primarily it is designed for exporting liquid fuels extracted by fracking in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale gas region.
New Fortress Energy, a company affiliated with the developers of the Gibbstown Logistics Center, is behind a plan to manufacture liquefied natural gas (LNG) at a proposed facility in Wyalusing, Pa., northwest of Scranton, and ship the flammable liquid by road or by rail to Gibbstown. There, it would be loaded directly onto ships and either exported overseas or barged to domestic customers.
The project is unusual. Most LNG export production facilities are near deepwater ports, and the fuel is loaded directly from the plant onto vessels. Under New Fortress's plan, the LNG would be produced in the shale-gas region and then transported in liquid form on public highways or on railroads that pass through populated areas before they reach port.
"This is the first time that this much volume of gas is being liquefied, traveling across land and then loaded directly onto ships that then go out to sea to sell it for export," said Tracy Carluccio, deputy director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, which has led opposition to the plan. "There's no other project like this, and we're being used as guinea pigs because it's untested."
Environmentalists oppose LNG because it creates demand for more natural gas produced from fracking, which they say is harmful, and because it would bring more fossil fuel to market. Natural-gas proponents say it mostly displaces dirtier coal and petroleum in making electricity. But it is still a major emitter of greenhouse gases.