Greens target DOE in latest bid to stop export project

By Amanda Reilly | 07/26/2016 01:04 PM EDT

Environmentalists launched another legal assault yesterday on the planned export of liquefied natural gas.

Environmentalists launched another legal assault yesterday on the planned export of liquefied natural gas.

The Sierra Club filed a petition for review challenging the Department of Energy’s authorization of the proposed Corpus Christi Liquefaction Project in Texas. The project is a joint effort of Cheniere Marketing LLC and subsidiary Corpus Christi Liquefaction LLC.

Greens have suffered a string of losses in legal battles over proposed LNG terminals, losing challenges to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s approval of export terminals in Texas, Louisiana and Maryland. In those cases, green groups unsuccessfully argued that FERC unlawfully failed to consider the indirect impacts of greater natural gas exports.


Most recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit this month rejected environmentalists’ challenge to Dominion Resources Inc.’s plan to convert its $3.8 billion Dominion Cove Point LNG import terminal in Maryland into an export facility (Greenwire, July 15).

The Sierra Club last year launched a lawsuit in the D.C. Circuit challenging FERC’s approval of the Corpus Christi project using similar arguments, but that petition could meet the same fate as the other suits.

"Sierra Club raises no materially different arguments here than it did in those cases," Cheniere and Corpus Christi Liquefaction told the D.C. Circuit today in a filing in the Sierra Club’s prior lawsuit, citing the Cove Point decision.

Litigation challenging DOE approvals of export projects, on the other hand, may have a better chance of success.

In a decision last month rejecting greens’ legal attacks on export facilities in Cameron Parish, La., and Freeport, Texas, the D.C. Circuit told the Sierra Club that it had targeted the wrong agency and that DOE was the correct foe.

While FERC spearheads environmental reviews of export terminals for liquefied natural gas, DOE determines whether exports are in the public interest (Greenwire, June 29).

The Sierra Club petition filed yesterday challenges a May 2015 order by DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy granting the long-term export of natural gas from the proposed Corpus Christi project.

Yesterday’s petition for review also challenges DOE’s May 2016 denial of the Sierra Club’s request for a rehearing on the order.

The Corpus Christi export facility is being built at a Cheniere site that was previously permitted for a regasification terminal. Cheniere would be able to export about 2.1 billion standard cubic feet of natural gas per day from the facility.

The Sierra Club also has a lawsuit pending in the D.C. Circuit that charges DOE violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it approved exports from Freeport in 2014 without examining the impacts on gas production, coal consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

The oil and gas industry has intervened in the Freeport lawsuit, arguing that DOE has fully complied with the NEPA statute.