Dominion Energy has received conditional approval by the appropriate authority to export liquefied natural gas from its Cove Point terminal on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in its decision said the 79 conditions which include taking reasonable steps to minimize negative environmental impacts particularly on land and landowners among other effects must be treated with so much caution.
Other three LNG export projects in the Gulf were also approved by the Commission, but the Cove Point terminal is the first one on the East Coast.
President, Richmond, the Virginia-based Dominion Energy, Diane Leopold was quoted to have said: “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”. She added that the company was committed to constructing a safe, secure, environmentally compatible and reliable export facility.
Republicans in US Congress were reported to have been lobbying to get the approval for LNG exports, taking into consideration the hegemonic influence Russia has on and over countries that rely on her for gas supplies. Adding that the project would go a long way to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian gas.
Several environmental groups however opposed the project, citing, among other reasons, 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.
“The Commission’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 F. 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.