Huge win against LNG: feds require climate analysis; what about Florida? 2024-01-24

The president’s decision on Calcasieu Pass LNG (CP2) in Louisiana is a huge win, comparable to the Keystone XL pipeline decision a decade ago. But what does it mean for Florida?

According to the New York Times:

Whatever new criteria is used to evaluate CP2 would be expected to be applied to the other 16 proposed natural gas terminals that are awaiting approval.

“This move would amount to a functional ban on new LNG export permits,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, said on the Senate floor Wednesday.

The catch is that there are already LNG export operations in Florida and Georgia.

Plus Florida is a few hundred miles closer than Louisiana to Puerto Rico, which is one of the usual first destinations of LNG, and closer to most of the rest of the Caribbean and Latin America.

And some of the financiers of Louisiana LNG projects are involved in existing or potential projects in Florida.

[Calcasieu Pass LNG in google maps]
Calcasieu Pass LNG in google maps

Here are excerpts from the NYTimes story. Coral Davenport, New York Times, January 24, 2024, White House Said to Delay Decision on Enormous Natural Gas Export Terminal: Before deciding whether to approve it, the Energy Department will analyze the climate impacts of CP2, one of 17 proposed LNG export terminals.,

The Biden administration is pausing a decision on whether to approve what would be the largest natural gas export terminal in the United States, a delay that could stretch past the November election and spell trouble for that project and 16 other proposed terminals, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.

The White House is directing the Energy Department to expand its evaluation of the project to consider its impact on climate change, as well as the economy and national security, said these people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss internal deliberations. The Energy Department has never rejected a proposed natural gas project because of its expected environmental impact.

The project in question, Calcasieu Pass 2, is among 17 additional terminals that have been proposed by the fossil fuel industry.

“This move would amount to a functional ban on new LNG export permits,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “The administration’s war on affordable domestic energy has been bad news for American workers and consumers alike.”

Calcasieu Pass 2, or CP2, would dwarf the country’s existing export terminals. The $10 billion project would be situated along a shipping channel that connects the Gulf of Mexico to Lake Charles, La. It would export up to 20 million tons of natural gas per year, increasing the current amount of exported American gas by about 20 percent.

The project first requires approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission before it shifts to the Energy Department for consideration.

The Energy Department is required to weigh whether the export terminal is in “the public interest,” a subjective determination. But now, the White House has requested an additional analysis of the climate impacts of CP2.

Natural gas, which is primarily composed of methane, is cleaner than coal when it is burned. But methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas in the short term, compared with carbon dioxide, and it can leak anywhere along the supply chain, from the production wellhead to processing plants to the stovetop. The process of liquefying gas to make it suitable for transport is incredibly energy intensive as well, creating yet more emissions.

Whatever new criteria is used to evaluate CP2 would be expected to be applied to the other 16 proposed natural gas terminals that are awaiting approval.

Scientists have overwhelmingly said that nations must deeply and quickly cut the emissions from burning gas, oil and coal if humanity is to avoid climate catastrophe. Last month at the United Nations climate summit in Dubai, the United States joined 196 other countries in promising to transition away from fossil fuels.

More than 150 scientists signed a Dec. 19 letter to Mr. Biden, urging him to reject CP2 and the additional proposed facilities. “The magnitude of the proposed build out of LNG over the next several years is staggering,” they wrote. Approving new terminals would “put us on a continued path toward escalating climate chaos,” the letter said.

Given the scientific imperative, experts say that it is reasonable to consider climate impacts before building new gas export terminals.

“So far there is really no requirement to consider the cumulative climate, economic or market impact of all those facilities,” said Ben Cahill, a senior fellow in the energy security and climate change program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a nonpartisan research organization. “And it’s a very valid question.”

Shaylyn Hynes a spokeswoman for Venture Global LNG, the Virginia-based company that wants to build CP2, wrote in an email that “it appears the administration may be putting a moratorium on the entire US LNG industry. Such an action would shock the global energy market, having the impact of an economic sanction, and send a devastating signal to our allies that they can no longer rely on the United States.”

A delay of many months could jeopardize the financing for CP2. Venture Global LNG, has other gas export terminals that have already run into equipment and shipping problems and legal disputes.

That’s exactly the hope of climate activists who launched a social media campaign last fall to urge Mr. Biden to reject CP2.

“We see CP2 as stopping the first fraction of the largest LNG build out to date,” said Alex Haraus, a 25-year-old Colorado social media influencer who has led a TikTok and Instagram campaign aimed at urging young voters to demand that Mr. Biden reject the project. His posts have received about 7 million views on TikTok and Instagram.

I was among many who picketed the White House against Keystone XL. And I have been thrown out of a FERC meeting for speaking against LNG. This is a very welcome decision. But is it enough?

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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