Shea-Porter, Shaheen, Ayotte Urge Review of Sea-3 Rail Travel through Great Bay

Request Review of Potential Environmental Impacts

July 23, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC – In response to concerns from Seacoast area residents, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) and U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) are urging the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to study potential impacts of Sea-3 Inc.’s proposed increase in rail traffic on the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (GBNERR).

In a letter to Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, the members of New Hampshire's Congressional delegation asked NOAA to consider the need for a comprehensive environmental assessment of the potential impacts of increased rail traffic on lines running through GBNERR. Additionally, Shea-Porter, Shaheen, and Ayotte asked NOAA to identify any further oversight and support the agency can provide to the GBNERR.

“The GBNERR is part of the Great Bay Estuary, New Hampshire's largest estuarine system, which offers a variety of diverse habitats, including eelgrass beds, mudflats, and salt marsh,” wrote Shea-Porter, Shaheen, and Ayotte. “The Great Bay-Piscataqua Waterkeeper has highlighted numerous environmental effects that expanded use of these rail lines would have on research facility work, oyster restoration efforts, aquaculture operations, lobsterman, crabbers, and recreational shell fishermen.”

On May 19, 2014, the Newington Planning Board approved Sea-3’s proposal to expand its liquefied petroleum gas facility and increase its capacity for off-loading propane from tank cars. While en route to Sea-3’s Newington terminal, rail cars will travel on 13 miles of track through the protected estuary system.  

Full text of the letter, sent yesterday, is attached.

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July 21, 2014

The Honorable Penny Pritzker

Secretary of Commerce

1401 Constitution Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20230

Dear Ms. Pritzker:

We write to request that that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) review the situation in the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (GBNERR) and determine whether NOAA should conduct a comprehensive environmental assessment on the environmental considerations surrounding the expanded use of the rail line passing through the GBNERR.

The GBNERR is part of the Great Bay Estuary, New Hampshire's largest estuarine system, which offers a variety of diverse habitats, including eelgrass beds, mudflats, and salt marsh.  Thirteen miles of Class 1 rail line run alongside and over portions of the Great Bay, GBNERR, and Piscataqua River. 

Sea-3 Inc. operates a propane terminal facility in the town of Newington, NH.  On May 19, 2014, the Newington Planning Board approved Sea-3’s expansion, allowing it to receive propane shipments by rail.  The additional rail cars will travel on the thirteen miles of rail along the estuary system.   Pan Am Railways, the rail line owner, is currently upgrading the tracks from Class 1 to Class 2, which will result in an estimated 10,000 rail ties being replaced. 

The Great Bay-Piscataqua Waterkeeper has highlighted numerous environmental effects that expanded use of these rail lines would have on research facility work, oyster restoration efforts, aquaculture operations, lobsterman, crabbers, and recreational shell fishermen.  We ask that NOAA determine whether a comprehensive environmental assessment of the rail line expansion would be appropriate to address these concerns and for NOAA to detail any further oversight and support the agency can provide to the GBNERR in regards to this issue.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.  We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Carol Shea-Porter                                                          Jeanne Shaheen

Member of Congress                                                   United States Senator

Kelly Ayotte

United States Senator