July 24, 2024

This story was originally published by Diffuse lighta non-profit newsroom that investigates the powerful interests blocking climate action.

Despite a much-publicized pause on the approval of liquefied natural gas terminals in the United States, a federal regulatory agency on Thursday approved construction of the nation’s largest LNG terminal, months before that pause was set to end.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s 2-1 vote approving the $10 billion Calcasieu Pass 2 in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, does not mean developer Venture Global will begin construction on the facility to export condensed and supercooled. methane. But it’s a big step forward for the company, which has asked FERC to approve it two-and-a-half-year-old application since February.

In a statement after the decision, the company indicated it was waiting for approval from the Department of Energy to export the fuel to some countries — approvals suspended by the Biden administration in January.

Venture Global CEO Mike Sabel said the project “will be critical to global energy security and supporting the energy transition, as well as providing jobs and economic growth in Louisiana and the United States.”

Advocates are expected to sue over the FERC approval. “We’re ready and willing to take it to court,” said Roishetta Ozane, leader of The Vessel Project of Louisiana, a mutual aid, disaster relief and environmental justice nonprofit. Ozane brought dozens of community members and opponents to the FERC meeting.

Louisiana activist Roishetta Ozane says residents near the planned Calcasieu Pass 2 LNG export terminal are ready to fight it in court.
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

“We’re not going to sit back and let this … come into our community.”

Outgoing FERC Commissioner Allison Clements was the lone dissenter on the vote, saying the commission failed to adequately assess the facility’s impact on nearby communities or the climate. Approving the terminal, she said, would result in the equivalent of adding 1.8 million gasoline-powered cars to the roads each year.

For environmentalists and fishermen along the Gulf Coast, the vote is a big step back for the community and for climate change. CP2 was marked a “carbon megabomb” by some environmentalists and expected to single-handedly export LNG with almost 20 percent.

The terminal will be located in a 60-mile stretch with nine other such facilities in various stages of planning or operation. In all, there are 17 export terminals along the Gulf Coast that are in operation, under construction or approved.

“Approving CP2 … blatantly ignores the Biden administration’s LNG approval pause, which is critical to assessing the serious economic, health and climate risks of the massive expansion of methane export facilities in the US,” says Breon Robinson, a southwest Texas community organizer for the nonprofit Healthy Gulf who lives in Lake Charles, Louisiana, north of the string of LNG plants.

It is the location of the planned Calcasieu Pass 2 LNG export terminal and its 85-mile pipeline.
Venture Global website

In January, the Biden administration order the Department of Energy to pause approvals for new liquefied natural gas terminals to further study the impact of methane exports. The benchmark stopped the federal approval of CP2 and 16 other proposed terminals. FERC is an independent body of regulators appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

The moratorium is to give DOE time to consider whether exporting to countries that do not have a free trade agreement with the United States is in the public interest.

The last DOE study was completed in 2018, before production of the fuel skyrocketed — making the United States the world’s largest LNG exporter in 2023. The biggest buyers of LNG for the proposed terminal is in such non-free trade countries, including Germany and Japan, which have contracted about half of CP2’s output.

Since the pause was enacted, the Biden administration has faced increasing pressure to end it from the industry and leading Republicans, who called it a political tactic. Former President Donald Trump said if elected this fall, he would immediately allow more exports moving forward. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the study is not expected to be completed until the first quarter of 2025.

Data, including from the government’s own Energy Information Administration, has shown that the export of LNG has increased the domestic prices of natural gas for consumers and industries.

But FERC does not consider such impacts, and the body did repeatedly rejected requests to consider the impact of climate change in its decisions. It has yet to reject an LNG terminal.

Thursday’s decision was based on a environmental impact statement was completed last year, which found that while the facility and its 85-mile long pipeline would have some adverse effects, most would be “less than significant” and could be mitigated. Climate change impacts, according to a FERC summary, “are not characterized as significant or insignificant in the EIS.”

Clements said that new information, including about CP2’s emissions, should have been addressed in a supplemental EIS. Instead, she said it was amended to include emissions data given to FERC by the company.

Supporters of the LNG build-up say the exported gas can offset carbon emissions from coal plants in other countries. However, on Tuesday, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis issued a report which found that renewable energy in China is doing more to displace coal than LNG. An earlier one study by Cornell University Professor Bob Howarth found greenhouse gas emissions from LNG to be equal to or as much than 274 percent greater ash from burning coal.

In Cameron Parish, which has lost half its population since Hurricane Rita in 2005, some residents say methane export facilities including CP2 are necessary for the parish’s survival.

“If we didn’t have these LNGs coming into Cameron Parish to help us with infrastructure, with tax base money, with jobs — look what Cameron Parish would look like,” Howard Romero, president of the Cameron Parish Port, Harbor and Terminal District , said in a video placed by the congregation’s governing body.

While Romero claims that those who oppose the terminal are not from Cameron Parish, a group of fishermen and opponents of CP2 say the opposite is true.

In a filing with FERC this month, the group said an analysis of form letters to FERC in support of CP2 found that none were from Cameron Parish, 75 percent were from outside Louisiana and 60 percent had ties to the fossil fuel industry. They note that more than 15,000 people and organizations have written comments and letters against the project.

The US Energy Information Administration reports that US exports of liquefied natural gas, also known as methane, went from almost zero in 2016 to the largest exporter in the world in 2023.

With FERC’s approval, Venture Global can technically begin building the facility if it obtains a final air permit from Louisiana and a successful challenge to a filed complaint about his coastal use permit.

With such high dollar amounts involved, however, the project’s financiers are likely to balk without a guarantee that it can ship the fuel to CP2’s biggest customers, said Gillian Giannetti of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“It is neither pragmatic nor practical,” she said, “and would be exceptionally bad business.”

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