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Environmental groups sue feds over natural gas export project

Environmental groups sue feds over natural gas export project
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Environmental groups have sued the federal government in an attempt to block a new liquefied natural gas export facility in Maryland.

The groups, led by Earthjustice, sued the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) over its decision to authorize Dominion Resources' $3.8 billion Cove Point natural gas export project, arguing the commission did not consider whether it would hurt the environment or increase air and water pollution by encouraging new hydraulic fracturing. 

FERC approved the plant last fall and denied the groups' request for a rehearing on the decision earlier this week. The groups — the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Patuxent Riverkeeper and the Sierra Club — worry a new export facility will encourage new fracking in the Marcellus Shale region, which they say is bad for air and water quality, could contribute to global warming and could be dangerous for those living in the area. 

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"Time and again, FERC has shown a blatant disregard for the health and safety of people and the climate and, we believe, the law," Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said in a statement. "Tragically, FERC’s foot-dragging has allowed Dominion bulldozers to start construction before Calvert County [Maryland] residents had legal recourse to challenge the agency’s decision.”

FERC approved the project, which is set to open in 2017, in September, clearing the way for the first liquefied natural gas export station on the East Coast. Dominion hopes to export up to 5.75 metric tons of natural gas a year from the facility, located on the Chesapeake Bay. 

Also Thursday, the Energy Department authorized Dominion to export natural gas to countries that do not have Free Trade Agreements with the United States.

"The Energy Department conducted an extensive, careful review of the Dominion Cove Point LNG applications," a department statement said. "Among other factors, the Department considered the economic, energy security, and environmental impacts and determined that [the export rate] was not inconsistent with the public interest."