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For the first time in two years, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission late last week approved a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) export project — the Calcasieu Pass in Cameron Parish, Louisiana — after the Commission’s two Republican commissioners and one of the two Democratic commissioners agreed to use a new approach for consideration of direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from LNG facilities. The compromise approach apparently is that the facility must disclose its annual GHG emissions and compare them the overall annual emissions in the U.S. in order to gain approval. The Natural Resources Defense Council criticized this approach, calling it a “check the box” exercise instead of giving GHG emissions the “hard look” needed.
The Commission’s order states that the construction and operation of the facility could directly increase annual emissions of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) by nearly 4 million metric tons but that will only increase nationwide CO2e emissions by 0.07 percent.
The Democratic Commissioner who voted with the Republicans stated afterward in a tweet “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.” The Commission has been deadlocked over this issue but the compromise provides a precedent that could be used to approve other LNG projects that are currently pending. Many of these projects are based along the Gulf of Mexico coastline, in places that are vulnerable to storms and still have not recovered from recent extreme events, like Port Arthur, Texas where the entire town was submerged by Hurricane Harvey. There are a dozen other similar projects awaiting approval by FERC — companies are racing to build LNG terminals to feed the growing market for natural gas in Asian countries that are seeking a to shift away from coal.
Why This Matters: Natural gas is complicated. On the positive side, burning natural gas rather than coal in Asia is a good thing. On the other hand, here at home, there are uncontrolled methane seeps during the drilling and extraction process, and then there are the massive but seemingly insignificant (according to FERC) CO2 emissions from the transportation and production of LNG. We have concerns about the fact that gas from fracking may be drying up just as these new LNG terminals come on line in the Gulf of Mexico. Plus, many of these terminals are in vulnerable coastal areas, and the risks due to storms are not mentioned in FERC’s order and seem not to have been considered at all. On the whole, this seems like an ill-considered decision and worse yet, there are likely to be more like it coming down from FERC soon.
President Trump trumpeted his trade deal with China, but so far it has been a bust, according to The Wall Street Journal — the Chinese have not purchased nearly the amount of energy (in terms of total dollars) as they promised — only $2B in oil and gas purchases against a commitment of $25B for this year.
A federal judge in Washington, DC ruled yesterday that the Dakota Access Pipeline must shut down and empty all its oil until the government completes an environmental review of the pipeline’s impacts, giving the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose reservation lies downstream, a huge victory. Similarly, late in the day, the Supreme Court refused to overturn the order of a district judge that shut down construction of parts of the Keystone XL pipeline so it is also blocked for now.
Why It Matters: The Dakota and Keystone XL news is greatly tempered by the fact that numerous other pipeline projects can go ahead despite their inadequate permit unless they are individually challenged in court and blocked.
Yesterday, Dominion Energy and its partner, Duke Energy, announced they were ending a 600-mile natural gas project that would have cost at least $8 billion to complete. As the Richmond Times-Dispatch wrote, Dominion and Duke canceled the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in the face of mounting regulatory uncertainty caused by a federal court […]
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