Description: Challenge to FERC approvals of liquefied natural gas facilities in Texas.
Sierra Club v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 06/28/2016 Opinion Download Opinion issued. D.C. Circuit Upheld FERC’s Environmental Review for Texas LNG Facility, Left Door Open for Challenges of Energy Department Authorizations of Natural Gas Export. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against environmental groups in a challenge to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) authorizations for modifications to a liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility in Texas to support LNG export. The environmental groups—Sierra Club and Galveston Baykeeper—had argued that FERC’s review of the project under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) did not fully consider the environmental consequences of FERC’s authorizations of the facility’s construction, including impacts of induced natural gas production. The D.C. Circuit held that Sierra Club had established standing, rejecting FERC’s argument that petitioners were required to tie their injury to the increase in natural gas production allegedly caused by FERC’s actions. The D.C. Circuit also said that the challenge to FERC’s approvals was not mooted by reports prepared by the Department of Energy (DOE) on environmental consequences of LNG production and export. On the merits, however, the D.C. Circuit held that FERC did not have to consider the indirect effects—including potential increases in domestic natural gas production—of exporting LNG because only DOE had authority to license the export of LNG from the facilities. The court said that FERC had “reasonably explained that the asserted linkage [between induced production and the FERC approvals] was too attenuated to be weighed” in FERC’s NEPA review. The D.C. Circuit also upheld FERC’s analysis of cumulative impacts, rejecting the contention that FERC should have conducted a “nationwide analysis” of other pending or approved LNG export terminals. The D.C. Circuit also declined to consider the petitioners’ argument that emissions from the LNG facilities’ electricity use should have been disclosed in pounds per megawatt-hour instead of in tons per year. The D.C. Circuit said it was without jurisdiction to consider this argument because it had not been raised in the underlying FERC proceeding.