FERC staff concluded the Commonwealth LNG terminal project in Louisiana could have minimal environmental consequences if built, but it could contribute to “disproportionately high and adverse” impacts on marginal communities already affected by industry.

The conclusion from Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff was published in a final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the project proposed near Cameron, LA (Nos. CP19-502-000 CP19-502-001). The analysis will be considered in FERC’s final decision on the project, which management from the Houston-based company said could be sanctioned by the end of 2023.

In the final EIS, staff made similar assumptions as in the draft issued in April, writing that most impacts from the project could be mitigated to “less than significant levels.” However, staff recommended considering the cumulative impacts to the landscape for what the agency calls environmental justice (EJ) communities.

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“Cumulative impacts on environmental justice communities related to wetlands, surface water, aquatic resources, socioeconomics, traffic, noise and air quality would be less than significant,” staff wrote. “However, general cumulative impacts related to visual resources would be significant.”

The Environmental Protection Agency and FERC generally use the term EJ community to describe disadvantaged populations that have been “historically marginalized and overburdened by pollution,” according to the agencies.

Both Biden administration officials and environmental groups have increasingly called for greater emphasis on EJ community considerations in project reviews. Last August, FERC was directed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (DC) Circuit to revisit its approval for two Texas LNG projects, in part to provide more information on impacts to EJ communities.

FERC staff excluded any judgments on the impact from greenhouse gas emissions associated with the project from the final EIA. FERC is still in the middle of an extensive process for determining GHG emissions policies.

The final EIS evaluated Commonwealth’s proposed six liquefaction trains, four flares, six storage tanks, a marine facility and an estimated 1.44 Bcf/d pipeline planned to supply the terminal.

Commonwealth LNG is aiming for its proposed 8.4 million metric tons/year (mmty) facility to start loading cargoes by mid-2026. The project earlier in the month netted an offtake agreement from Australia’s Woodside Energy Group Ltd. With the Woodside agreement, more than 75% of the nameplate capacity could be under binding or nonbinding agreements.

Driftwood LNG Pipeline Project

FERC has also issued a final EIS for a Tellurian Inc. pipeline project that would serve natural gas demand in Southwestern Louisiana and the company’s Driftwood LNG export project. 

The Commission concluded that construction and operation of the Line 200 and Line 300 projects would result in some adverse environmental impacts. However, those would be temporary and occur during construction only, FERC said.  

Tellurian wants to build a 37-mile, 42-inch diameter system. Line 200 would be the first phase of the project, which could come online next year pending regulatory approvals. Line 300 would follow.

The pipelines would have the ability to move 5.7 Bcf/d from the Haynesville Shale to industrial, petrochemical, manufacturing and LNG plants located near Lake Charles, LA. Volumes in the region are growing. Infrastructure capacity there is projected to be limited in the years ahead as production grows, along with more industrial and natural gas export activity.

“With the exception of climate change impacts that are not characterized in this EIS as significant or insignificant, we conclude that project effects would not be significant based on implementation of Driftwood’s impact avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures, as well as their adherence to our recommendations,” FERC said. 

The Commission also said the pipelines would not have a significant impact on the environment or people living near project facilities, including EJ populations.

Tellurian is developing the 27 mmty Driftwood LNG export terminal in the region, but has yet to sanction the project.

The Line 200 and 300 system would originate in Beauregard Parish and end in Calcasieu Parish. It would pair shippers with more Haynesville gas via new infrastructure near the Texas Eastern Transmission Co. and Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. systems. Subsidiary Driftwood Pipeline LLC launched a binding open season last year. 

Jamison Cocklin contributed to this story.