FERC accused of “bypassing” environmental review for LNG authorization in Alaska

Environmental groups have asked a federal court to order the FERC to revoke its authorization for the proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Alaska, arguing that the Commission failed to adequately consider the environmental impacts of the development.

In a petition filed last week in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (DC), the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) said the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission “shied away” from its decision. obligation “to closely examine the harmful effects of the project. environmental impacts at almost every turning point ”in the compilation of the environmental impact study (EIA) which informed the 2020 authorization.

The CBD filed the petition on its own behalf and on behalf of other groups, including the Sierra Club and Earthjustice.

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The Alaska LNG project estimated at $ 38.7 billion is led by state-owned Alaska Gasline Development Corp. (AGDC). It would transport stranded natural gas from the North Slope via a new 807-mile pipeline to a liquefaction terminal on the south coast of Alaska. It is authorized to export 20 million metric tons / year (2.55 Gcf / d).

AGDC spokesman Tim Fitzpatrick told NGI the CBD request was wrong. “The environmental benefits of replacing coal, diesel and wood as energy and heat sources in Asia and the interior of Alaska with clean natural gas are clear,” he said. “This request to FERC is misguided and runs counter to widely accepted climate priorities.”

In particular, the CBD said that while the FERC determined that the project would increase Alaska’s annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30-47%, the Commission did not assess the potential impacts of the levels. higher GHGs. The CBD also said that FERC was “completely ignoring the indirect greenhouse gas emissions caused by the commercialization of the currently isolated Arctic gas project,” which it said violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA ).

In addition, the center said the commission had not examined in detail any alternatives to the project, including the impact of inaction on the proposal.

“The EIA concludes that all alternatives to the project would not meet the objectives of the project, would not be achievable or would not offer significant environmental benefits compared to the proposal of the company”, according to the file. “Therefore, FERC only analyzed the project in detail. FERC also did not consider in detail a no-action alternative.

Rather, FERC asserted that if it chose the no-intervention alternative, the Alaskan LNG developer or other applicants would likely develop another North Slope gas transportation project for export and delivery in the ‘State. The emissions from this project would likely be comparable to those from the Alaska LNG project and, therefore, a no-intervention decision would have provided no significant environmental benefit, FERC said.

However, the complainants argued that FERC’s reasoning was flawed, since such a project would be a large-scale undertaking and in any event subject to the assessments of the commission.

“There is no factual support for FERC’s conclusion that even if it chose the no-action alternative for the project, a similar project involving both export and in-state delivery would likely be developed. “, did he declare.

In addition, FERC did not properly consider the impact of the project on critically endangered Cook Inlet beluga whales and wetland habitats, the CBD said.

The news comes amid scrutiny of the environmental impacts of LNG projects in the United States. In July, the Department of Energy announced that it would prepare an additional EIA for Alaska LNG. The analysis would assess the potential environmental impacts associated with the production of natural gas on the North Slope and a life cycle analysis calculating the GHG emissions of LNG exported from the proposed project.

And last month, the DC Court of Appeals ordered FERC to review its approvals for two planned LNG export facilities in Texas. Circuit judge Robert Wilkins wrote in the court ruling that FERC’s environmental scans for the developments had been flawed. The facilities in question, the Rio Grande LNG from NextDecade Corp. 2019. Neither has made a final investment decision.

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