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Federal regulators say LNG facility will have no significant environmental impacts

Liquefied natural gas circulates around the loading pier about a mile off shore of the Dominion transfer plant.

Lindsay Lazarski/ WHYY

Liquefied natural gas circulates around the loading pier about a mile off shore of the Dominion transfer plant.

Federal regulators say a proposal to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) from a terminal in Cove Point, Maryland will not result in significant impacts to the environment.

The facility, operated by Dominion Resources, was given conditional approval by the U.S. Department of Energy last September. It would be the closest gas export facility to the Marcellus Shale.

In its 241-page environmental assessment of the project, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) concluded that it will “not result in significant cumulative impacts.”

From the report:

The adverse cumulative impacts that could occur in conjunction with the Project would be temporary and minor. Temporary cumulative benefits could occur through temporary jobs and wages, and the purchases of local goods and materials.

Overall, we have determined that the Project, in association with other projects in the area, would not result in significant cumulative impacts.

This environmental assessment by FERC staff is a recommendation to the commission, which will make the decision about whether to approve the project. Other permits are also required.

The American Petroleum Institute issued a statement saying it welcomes this latest step toward the approval of the terminal.

“We urge federal regulators to quickly approve the facility,” said Erik Milito, head of Upstream and Industry Operations for API. “With over 60 foreign projects already planned or under construction, there is a global race to build this infrastructure, and Cove Point could play an important role in securing America’s trade advantage.”

Some environmental groups have criticized the project, arguing it will negatively impact the Chesapeake Bay area and lead to more gas drilling.

Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune issued a statement today saying the FERC report fails to fully analyze the cumulative greenhouse gas emissions of natural gas development.

“It would be inexcusable for FERC to allow the LNG export facility to start operating without a full environmental review,” said Brune. “We can’t cut climate pollution and simultaneously expand the use of dirty fossil fuels, so we must fully understand the consequences of liquefying fracked natural gas for export before we license new export facilities. ”

The report’s authors write that FERC’s authority relates only to natural gas facilities involved in interstate commerce, and thus the assessment does not involve a broader analysis of gas production.

“Specific details, including the timing, location, and number of additional production wells that may or may not be drilled, are speculative,” they write. “As such, impacts associated with the production of natural gas that may be sourced from various locations and methods for export by the Project are not reasonably foreseeable or quantifiable.”

FERC is accepting public comments on the environmental assessment until June 16th.

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