FERC accused of erring on Dominion’s Cove Point LNG approval

Dominion Resources Inc.’s $3.8 billion Cove Point liquefied natural gas terminal promotes pollution from fracking, Earthjustice and other environmental groups said as part of a legal challenge to the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s approval of the project.

FERC used an illegally narrow environmental assessment that didn’t factor in how the project would encourage fracking in the Appalachian region, increasing air and water pollution and spurring climate change, the groups said in a statement Thursday announcing the suit.

The commission also failed to consider the effect of foreign gas-transport ships dumping wastewater into Chesapeake Bay, where the terminal is under construction, according to the groups. The filing of the complaint couldn’t be immediately confirmed in court records.

“Exporting nearly 1 billion cubic feet of LNG per day means more gas drilling, which wreaks havoc on both the climate and the communities scarred by wells and pipelines,” Jocelyn D’Ambrosio, an attorney for Earthjustice, said in the statement.

The Marcellus Shale inland to the north and west of Chesapeake Bay is the most productive U.S. natural gas field, according to the Energy Department. Dominion is seeking to take advantage of a boom in U.S. natural gas production, driven by advances in drilling techniques including hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The terminal is located in Lusby, just south of Baltimore.

FERC approved the project in September and rejected the groups’ request for rehearing earlier this week, clearing the way for the court challenge, the groups said.

The agency explicitly rejected the need for further environmental analysis in a May 4 statement affirming its approval of the project. It said that “potential environmental effects associated with shale region production” aren’t “sufficiently causally related” to the project to warrant detailed analysis.

Tamara Young-Allen, a spokeswoman for FERC, declined to comment on the complaint.

Dominion, the third-largest U.S. utility owner by market value, isn’t a party to the case. Ryan Frazier, a spokesman for the Richmond, Virginia-based company, didn’t immediately respond to e-mail and phone messages seeking comment on the suit. Cove Point is scheduled to begin shipments in late 2017.

Earthjustice brought the suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, where cases against federal agencies are filed, on behalf of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, the Patuxent Riverkeeper and the Sierra Club.

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