Environmentalists opposed to the export of liquefied natural gas (LNG) were turned down again in a federal appeals court on Friday when arguments against the ongoing liquefaction and export project at the existing Dominion Cove Point LNG terminal were rejected.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia found that the major objections raised by EarthReports Inc. against FERC's approval of the Dominion project were similar to those raised by the Sierra Club in its opposition to the Sabine Pass and Freeport LNG projects (see Daily GPI, June 28; Jan. 7).
The environmentalists argued that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was obligated under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to consider the upstream consequences of increased exports of domestic natural gas. The court denied their position on the same grounds as in the Sierra Club case.
"...[T]he Commission was not required under NEPA to consider indirect effects of increased natural gas exports through the Cove Point facility, including climate impacts," the court said. "Petitioners' remaining challenges -- to the Commission's NEPA analysis of the impacts of ballast water on water quality, marine traffic on the North Atlantic right whale, and the Cove Point facility's operation on public safety -- fail to show that the Commission did not adequately consider these concerns."
The court did say that the environmentalists are free to pursue a challenge to the project on the same grounds with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). DOE is the entity responsible for granting licenses to export, whereas FERC oversees the approval of facilities construction.
The Center for Liquefied Natural Gas (CLNG) Executive Director Charlie Riedl had said previously that if the challenge were allowed to go forward it could upend infrastructure development by creating market uncertainty.
"CLNG believes that broadening FERC's consideration of natural gas project impacts would not serve the National Environmental Policy Act's goals and purposes, and that such an expansion would hinder the development of the natural gas infrastructure needed to ensure compliance with clean air goals," Riedl said.