FERC Streamlines LNG Export Process, Approves New Louisiana Terminal

Published April 2, 2019

In greenlighting a liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal for the first time in two years, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) established new criteria for assessing the facilities’ greenhouse-gas emissions.

In approving Venture Global’s Calcasieu Pass LNG export project in Cameron Parish, Louisiana and the associated TransCameron natural gas pipeline to feed it, FERC applied a new approach which considers direct greenhouse gas emissions from LNG facilities under the National Environmental Policy Act but not an assessment of broader upstream and downstream greenhouse gas emissions.

The decision on how to calculate greenhouse gas emissions was a compromise FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee agreed to, to satisfy a demand by Cheryl LaFleur, one of the commission’s two Democrats, that a greenhouse gas calculation be included in the final order issued on February 21.

Unlike previous FERC orders for LNG facilities, the one for Calcasieu Pass includes estimates of the project’s direct greenhouse gas emissions.

Template for Future Approvals

In addition to establishing a standard for calculating greenhouse gas emissions from an LNG plant’s operations, FERC also signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration for coordinated LNG terminal reviews and took other steps to streamline the approval process for LNG terminals.

Chatterjee indicated FERC’s efforts to improve the LNG approval process over the past year put the agency in a position to consider 12 other pending LNG projects efficiently.

“This is significant, as I anticipate we’ll be able to use the framework developed in this order to evaluate the other LNG certificates that the commission is considering,” Chatterjee said in a statement.

Energizing the World

Fossil fuel exports benefit the world, says Jay Lehr, director of science policy at The Heartland Institute, which publishes Environment & Climate News.

“The only good thing the Obama administration did to boost American energy, together with Congress, was to lift the ban on petroleum exports,” Lehr said. “This allowed us to become a new, reliable source of energy to the world.

“With this project, FERC is now stepping up the flow of LNG to countries eager to have it,” said Lehr.

Says State Should Follow

The Calcasieu facility is designed to have the capacity to process 10 million metric tons of LNG per year, with a peak capacity to export 12 million tons of LNG annually under optimal conditions.

Louisiana should follow FERC’s regulatory lead to expedite further LNG and pipeline operations in the state, says Daniel Erspamer, CEO of the Pelican Institute for Public Policy.

“We are pleased the federal government approved this important project, which will generate jobs and pathways for opportunities for working families and job seekers in Louisiana,” said Erspamer. “We hope Louisiana’s state government will see this as an opportunity to adopt friendlier, more predictable, and inviting policies to bring jobs and investments to our state.

“Our current system is driving jobs to Florida, Tennessee, and Texas, which have better policies across the board,” Erspamer said. “Louisiana’s working families deserve a fairer and more predictable regulatory environment.”

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research and a senior policy analyst with the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow.