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Regulators approve Louisiana natural gas export terminal
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved a natural gas export terminal after reaching a compromise on how to account for the operation's greenhouse gas emissions.
FERC, a federal body independent of the Trump administration, voted 3 to 1 Thursday night to approve construction of the Calcasieu Pass liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal, which Venture Global LNG plans to build in Cameron Parish in coastal Louisiana.
It was the first approval of an LNG terminal in two years, despite a backlog at FERC.
FERC's two Republican members reached a deal with Cheryl LaFleur, one of its Democrats, on how far to go in tracking the greenhouse gas emissions of the project.
The agreement could create a new precedent for how FERC deals with LNG terminals.
"I'm extremely pleased that we are issuing the certificate order for the Calcasieu Pass LNG export terminal today. This facility will have the capacity to export 12 million metric tons of US LNG per year," FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee said in a statement.
"But even more so, I really appreciate the efforts of my colleagues to work together to come to an agreement on this facility. This is significant, as I anticipate we'll be able to use the framework developed in this order to evaluate the other LNG certificates that the commission is considering."
LaFleur and Democrat Richard Glick had long pushed the commission to consider more of the greenhouse gases for which the project would be responsible, such as those upstream and downstream of the plant itself. The process of liquefying natural gas is energy-intensive and creates a large amount of emissions, but the process of producing and transporting the gas also produced emissions, as does transportation and burning it at its site of eventual use.
LaFleur said she was pleased with the compromise.
"The GHG emissions from liquefaction are substantial. Today's @FERC order rightly discloses the direct GHG emissions from Calcasieu Pass and puts them in the context of National GHG emissions," she wrote on Twitter.
The Trump administration cheered the decision as a move toward allowing more gas export facilities to proceed.
"This move by FERC is a significant step to bring more U.S. LNG into the market, as well as streamline the energy infrastructure permitting and authorization process. More U.S. gas in the international market will ultimately increase competition and drive down prices for consumers," Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said in a statement.
Venture Global welcomed the approval and said it is ready to start construction.
"With our FERC order in hand and our project contracted with binding 20-year sale and purchase agreements with Shell, BP, Edison S.p.A., Galp, Repsol and PGNiG, we plan to immediately commence construction activities in Louisiana in close coordination with FERC and other agencies," Bob Pender and Mike Sabel, the company's co-CEOs, said in a statement.