Court rejects greens’ plea to stop natural gas export projects

Court rejects greens’ plea to stop natural gas export projects
© Getty Images

A federal appeals court Wednesday rejected an environmental group’s lawsuits trying to overturn federal approval for three liquefied natural gas (LNG) export projects.

The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said that the Sierra Club’s challenges to export facilities in Maryland, Louisiana and Texas, fail for the same reasons that the same court ruled against the group in a similar case concerning a different project in August.

“In a very recent case, Sierra Club v. U.S. Department of Energy (Freeport), this court denied a petition by Sierra Club challenging, under the same two statutes, the Department [of Energy]’s approval of an LNG export application from a fourth facility. The court’s decision in Freeport largely governs the resolution of the instant cases,” the court’s three judges wrote in the brief judgment.

ADVERTISEMENT

The cases decided Wednesday were part of a collection of cases the Sierra Club and other groups filed to try to stop approvals of LNG export facilities by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

The greens generally argued that the federal agencies did not sufficiently consider environmental impacts of the approvals, like increases in hydraulic fracturing and greenhouse gas emissions.

In June 2016, the D.C. Circuit Court rejected the green’s arguments regarding FERC. And in August, the same court rejected the DOE arguments.

“Under our limited and deferential review, we cannot say that the Department failed to fulfill its obligations under [The National Environmental Policy Act] by declining to make specific projections about environmental impacts stemming from specific levels of export-induced gas production,” the court wrote in the August case.

While that same argument applied to the three cases in Wednesday’s decision, the judges said that there were some small issues remaining in the Sierra Club’s challenges, regarding environmental reviews and the impacts on low-income households. But none of those issues were convincing, they ruled.

The projects at issue in Wednesday’s cases were Dominion Energy’s Cove Point facility in Maryland, scheduled to open within weeks; Cheniere Energy Inc.’s Sabine Pass facility in Louisiana, which opened last year; and Cheniere’s Corpus Christi, Texas, project, due to open next year.