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NEPA releases hold on LNG project after weekend stop order

Published:Wednesday | July 20, 2016 | 7:00 AMTameka Gordon

New Fortress Energy was issued at the weekend with a stop order by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) on pipe-laying works to link its LNG terminal to the Jamaica Public Service Company's (JPS) Bogue plant in Montego Bay.

Representatives of the company, following a meeting with NEPA Tuesday morning, managed to secure a new permit allowing work to continue on the project, which has an end-of-summer deadline to start supplying gas to JPS.

New Fortress, a subsidiary of Fortress Investment Group LLC, is currently laying the pipelines from the port to the 120MW Bogue plant, but has faced setbacks getting landowners to allow the pipes to pass through their property.

"It's a minor issue, actually. We had some property owners that were being difficult about their rights of way. So Fortress had taken a different route, which wasn't permitted. They had to go back to get the permit just for the switch in the route," JPS boss Kelly Tomblin told Gleaner Business.

She said, initially, all landowners were in agreement with the route "but then a property owner changed their mind".

New Fortress had gone to NEPA for approval of the new route, but "NEPA hadn't approved it yet. They did so today (Tuesday)," Tomblin said, while conceding that work on the project had continued.

Officials from NEPA visited the site at the weekend to enforce a stop order.

Tomblin said the project or its timelines won't suffer any adverse fallout from the work stoppage, which roughly spanned two working days.

"I'm sure they can make that up," she said.

New Fortress said as much last night, after affirming "utmost respect" for planning rules.

"We have received official notice that work can continue on our pipeline installation, subject to our permit conditions," said New Fortress spokesman Jake Suski.

"We have the utmost respect for the rules and process and will continue to take direction from NEPA around permit issues. At this time, we don't anticipate any delays as a result of these conversations around the pipeline installation," he said.

The LNG project is already running about five months behind its original schedule. Gas delivery should have begun in April.

"The point is, we want to get gas to this power plant very quickly. So Fortress was moving very quickly. But we have to make sure we work very closely with the regulator and I think Fortress understands that now," said Tomblin.

tameka.gordon@gleanerjm.com