DC Circuit rejects bid to block Puerto Rico port expansion

By Niina H. Farah | 05/06/2024 06:54 AM EDT

The court upheld a NEPA analysis that allows dredging to clear the way for larger liquefied natural gas tankers.

Castillo San Felipe del Morro at the entrance of San Juan Bay.

Castillo San Felipe del Morro at the entrance of San Juan Bay in Puerto Rico. James Willamor/Flickr

An appeals court Friday backed the federal government’s assessment that a dredging project in Puerto Rico’s San Juan Bay will cause minimal environmental harm.

The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit comes about a month after project developer Curtin Maritime had already begun deepening and widening the bay. The project will allow larger liquefied natural gas tankers to reach Puerto Rico’s largest port, facilitating further gas development in the U.S. territory.

Judge Florence Pan, writing the opinion for the D.C. Circuit, affirmed a lower court’s decision to uphold the Army Corps of Engineers’ National Environmental Policy Act analysis and NOAA Fisheries’ finding that the project to remove 76 million cubic feet of the ocean floor would likely not harm at-risk coral species.


“Because the Corps and the Service did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in carrying out their responsibilities to evaluate environmental concerns, we affirm,” she wrote.