Greens pressure Obama to reject expansion of natural gas exports

Environmental groups called on President Obama Tuesday to reject pending applications to build liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals, citing the negative impacts from natural gas throughout its life cycle.

The pressure from green groups comes amid Republican calls for the administration to speed up the application process in response to Russia’s use of its natural gas resources as political leverage over Europe. Russia supplies most of Ukraine’s natural gas and is also a major supplier throughout much of Europe.

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The GOP argues the U.S. could loosen Russia’s grip over Ukraine and Europe by building more terminals and exporting more natural gas.

The environmental groups focused their argument on Cove Point, a proposed terminal in Lusby, Md., but also argued that the idea of increasing exports of natural gas to help Ukraine was misguided because most of the exports would likely go to Asia, where prices are higher.

The Sierra Club, 350.org and the Chesapeake Coalition, along with other allied groups, specifically asked Obama to have the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to conduct a full environmental review of Dominion Resources Inc.’s proposed Cove Point terminal.

“The proposed Cove Point LNG terminal would certainly make gas companies richer, but it would make our own country more poor,” Michael Brune, executive director of Sierra Club, told reporters Tuesday. “Building a new LNG terminal doesn’t strengthen our nation, and it further disrupts our climate.”

The groups argue increasing production of natural gas would lead to more hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, a natural-gas extraction process they said causes massive harm to the environment while releasing large amounts of greenhouse gas.

Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, warned that supporting natural gas could be politically detrimental to the president.

“Everybody’s watching now, this kind of stuff. And Democratic politicians who thought they might get by with a wink and a nod aren’t,” McKibben said. “Fracking’s become a dirty word, for good reason. “

In a statement responding to the letter, Dominion said natural gas could cut greenhouse gas emissions in half compared to using coal for electricity.

“Slowing or preventing natural gas exports from the United States is a step in exactly the wrong direction for those who are concerned about climate change,” Pamela Faggert, Dominion’s chief environmental officer, said in the statement.

FERC did not respond to requests for comment.

A bill sponsored by Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) would force the Obama administration to approve all pending LNG export terminal applications. 

This story was posted at 2:58 p.m. and updated at 7:43 p.m.