D.C. Circuit Upholds FERC’s Liquefied Natural Gas Export Plant Approval

Published December 29, 2016

In November, environmentalists lost their challenge in federal court to a planned liquefied natural gas export project.

In the case: Sierra Club v. FERC, case number 15-1133, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the Sierra Club challenged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) approval of the proposed Corpus Christi Liquefaction Project in Texas.

The project, a joint effort between Cheniere Marketing LLC and subsidiary Corpus Christi Liquefaction LLC., had been approved by the FERC in 2014, and, in a unanimous decision, the D.C. Circuit court ruled Sierra Club’s lawsuit raised challenges identical to ones the court had recently rejected in a separate case.

The court also ruled FERC was not required to address the indirect effects of the natural gas exported from the Corpus Christi terminal, for example its impact on climate change.

Losses Stacking Up

This decision is the latest in a string of losses in lawsuits by the Sierra Club challenging FERC for not considering the greenhouse gas impacts of proposed LNG export projects.

In a previous case, The Sierra Club challenged Dominion Resources plan to convert its $3.8 billion Dominion Cove Point LNG import terminal in Maryland into an export facility.

The D.C. Circuit rejected this challenge in July.

Lawsuits Target Wrong Agency

Additionally, the Sierra Club has lost lawsuits challenging export terminals in Texas and Louisiana. As in the previous cases, the D.C. Circuit said the Department of Energy (DOE), not FERC, should have been the target of complaints since DOE has the sole authority to license the export of natural gas.

The Sierra Club’s lawsuits challenging DOE’s approval of natural gas exports have yet to be decided.

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.