By Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Dominion Energy received federal approval late Monday to export liquefied natural gas from its Cove Point natural gas terminal on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.
In its decision, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission concluded that the project, as approved with conditions, would minimize potential adverse impacts on landowners and the environment. FERC has approved three other LNG export projects, but this is the first one on the East Coast. The others are in the Gulf of Mexico.
“We are pleased to receive this final approval that allows us to start constructing this important project that offers significant economic, environmental and geopolitical benefits,” said Diane Leopold, president of Richmond, Virginia-based Dominion Energy. She added that the company was committed to constructing a safe, secure, environmentally compatible and reliable export facility.
FERC’s ruling adopted staff recommendations made in an environmental assessment, requiring Dominion to meet 79 conditions aimed at mitigating negative environmental impacts. That assessment, issued this spring, concluded the project would have “no significant impact” on the environment but several environmental groups opposed the project, citing, among other things, concerns about greenhouse gas emissions from fracking, piping, processing, shipping and eventually burning the liquefied natural gas. They had pushed unsuccessfully for a more exhaustive federal review called an environmental impact statement.
“FERC’s decision to approve Cove Point is the result of a biased review process rigged in favor of approving gas industry projects no matter how great the environmental and safety concerns,” said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “FERC refused to even require an environmental impact statement for this $3.8 billion facility right on the bay. We intend to challenge this ruling all the way to the courts if necessary. For the safety of Marylanders and for people across our region facing new fracking wells and pipelines, we will continue to fight this project until it is stopped.”
In its decision, FERC said that for impacts related to climate change, the environmental assessment explained that there is “no standard methodology to determine how a project’s incremental contribution to GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions would result in physical effects on the environment, either locally or globally.”
The ruling is the last major regulatory hurdle for Dominion’s project, although the company must review and accept the order. Following that, Dominion said it expects to file an implementation plan describing how it will comply with FERC’s conditions and seek a notice to proceed from the agency.
Dominion hopes to begin its export operations in 2017. It envisions that 85 ships would leave from its terminal each year, carrying natural gas that has been cooled to liquid at minus 260 degrees. The gas is shipped in liquid form for ease of transport. Dominion plans to ship the liquefied natural gas to Japan and India, where gas prices are higher than in the U.S.
Monday’s ruling comes as energy companies seek to take advantage of a boom in natural gas fueled by hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. Republicans in Congress have been pushing the administration to approve LNG exports — casting that effort in recent months as a way to help beleaguered Ukraine.
Activists Seek Reconsideration Of Cove Point Decision
By Bryan P. Sears, in The Daily Record October 16, 2014
Environmental and community groups are asking federal regulators to reconsider an approval of the Cove Point natural gas terminal in Lusby, Maryland.
The request for reconsideration was filed late Wednesday with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by Earth Justice on behalf of a coalition led by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. The group also requested that the agency stay its Sept. 29 order giving Richmond, Virginia-based Dominion Energy permission to covert its existing import facility to an export facility.
“FERC is once again acting like it’s above the law, effectively hitting the on-switch for Dominion’s bulldozers before groups were able to exercise their legal right to challenge a widely contested ruling,” said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “Unless FERC hits the pause button on construction at Cove Point, Calvert County residents will face immediate and likely permanent damage to their environment and quality of life, all based on a fundamentally flawed review that could very well be overturned in the courts.”
In the filings, the groups charge that the agency granted permission for the project even though it is “not in the public interest” to do so. The groups added that the agency failed to require an environmental impact study that would “evaluate the project’s potentially significant impact on human health and the environment.”
Karl R. Neddenien, a Dominion spokesman, said the filings with federal regulators “raises no new issues.” “The FERC looked at every single one of these issues in its thorough environmental assessment and final order, approving the project as in the public interest,” said Neddenien.
The projected $3.8 billion project is the first that federal regulators have approved on the East Coast. Dominion hopes to begin exporting natural gas, which would be liquefied by chilling it to minus 260 degrees. The company expects to have as many as 85 ships leave the terminal annually to deliver natural gas to India and Japan.
In its ruling last month, the agency included 79 conditions it said would mitigate potential impacts on the environment and surrounding property owners.
Opponents of the project say the liquefaction process poses significant dangers to nearby residential areas.
“My neighbors and I are frankly appalled at the prospect of this project moving full speed ahead without a thorough review of the potentially catastrophic impacts to our community and environment. And the fact that Dominion is concealing its emergency response plan from the public only adds to our concerns and solidifies our belief that they are hiding the truth about the dangers of this project,” said Tracey Eno, a member of Calvert Citizens for a Healthy Community.