A proposed liquified natural gas (LNG) export facility in Cove Point, Maryland, got the green light (no pun intended) from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) earlier this week. Thanks to fracking, America is sitting on a glut of natural gas, and there’s a chorus of support for liquifying some of those reserves, putting them on ships, and sending them to customers abroad. The Hill reports:
“The FERC staff concludes that approval of the proposed project, with appropriate mitigating measures, would not constitute a major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment,” FERC said in its report about the Cove Point LNG Terminal.FERC found that Dominion Resources Inc. has proposed sufficient safeguards to mitigate the impacts of potential environmental incidents at the facility. Dominion has committed to purchasing credits to offset nitrogen oxide emissions from construction and will comply with all necessary federal laws and regulations, including those related to historic preservation and endangered species, FERC said.
There are both economic and strategic reasons to move forward with LNG exports. A report commissioned by the Department of Energy found that unlimited exports would have a net positive effect on the American economy. And, in the wake of Putin’s Crimean aggression, European and American policymakers alike have been clamoring for the U.S. to accelerate its plans to export LNG as a way of decreasing the continent’s reliance on Russian gas (though there are reasons why that won’t be as simple a solution as many politicians have made it out to be).The final stumbling block, then, seems to be the environmental impact of such a decision. As can be expected with any fossil fuel decision, greens have voiced concern over LNG export facilities, and specifically targeted the Cove Point installation for censure.But while this report clears up concerns over the impact of the facility’s impact on its local environment, don’t expect green opposition to end. For them, the world is painted in shades of green and brown, with nothing in between; natural gas isn’t renewable, so, despite the fact that natural gas emits roughly half the greenhouse gases as coal, it can’t be good enough.The release of the FERC report is followed by a 30-day comment-review period, after which the commission can decide whether or not to issue a permit. This is a step in the right direction, but we’re not done yet.