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Date of Issue: September 16, 2009

Comment period closes on Port Dolphin project

The federal government Sept. 11 closed the period for comment on an assessment of the impact of a natural gas port and pipeline project in the area.

Now the government weighs in on the proposal from Port Dolphin Energy LLC to construct and operate a deepwater natural gas port about 28 miles off the coast of Anna Maria Island in the Gulf of Mexico.

Under Port Dolphin’s plan, ships carrying liquefied natural gas from other areas would anchor next to buoys at the deepwater port, where the LNG would be converted into gas and fed into a pipeline running from the deepwater port into Tampa Bay to Port Manatee. The pipeline would continue several miles inland, where it would connect with other gas pipelines.

The Port Dolphin application has been under review by federal agencies, in cooperation with Florida departments, for two years.

In mid-July, the government released a final environmental impact statement that explores whether the project impacts air quality, cultural and historic resources, fish habitat, threatened or endangered species, navigation and transportation and land use.

That impact statement drew several objections from Anna Maria Island property owners concerned with activity within 30 miles of their beaches, as well as a call for “no action” from the environmental group ManaSota-88.

But most respondents to the EIS endorsed the project as a benefit to the local economy and a boost to energy needs.

While the public comment period closed as of Sept. 11, the federal government’s comment and review period continues.

The federal government is expected to decide in late October whether to issue a deepwater port license to Port Dolphin.

While the U.S. Coast Guard published the EIS, the Maritime Administration decides whether to issue the license, according to Ray Martin of the U.S. Coast Guard.

“The Coast Guard is neither a proponent nor an opponent for any deepwater port project,” Martin said. “It is the administrator of the Maritime Administration, which will ultimately decide whether to approve, disapprove or approve with conditions a license for this proposed deepwater port.”

To approve the license, under federal law, the administration must determine that:

• Port Dolphin has the financial ability to build and operate the project.

• Port Dolphin can comply with relevant laws and regulations.

The project is in national interest and consistent with security and energy policies.

The port will not interfere with international navigation.

Port Dolphin will strive to minimize adverse impact to the marine environment.

Port Dolphin will adhere to various federal pollution acts.

The U.S. Secretary of the Army, Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense do not object to the application.

The governor of the adjacent state does not object to the license, with silence denoting approval.

“We will begin developing a recommendation and a record of decision for the maritime administrator to consider,” Patrick Marchman of the Maritime Administration said. ”And these documents will specifically address the conditions for issuance of a license.”

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