Description: Challenge to authorizations to export liquefied natural gas from the Cove Point LNG Terminal in Maryland.
Sierra Club v. U.S. Department of Energy
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 11/01/2017 Judgment Download Petition for review denied. D.C. Circuit Upheld Department of Energy LNG Export Authorization. In an unpublished decision, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) authorization of liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports from a facility in Maryland. The court said its August 2017 decision rejecting challenges under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Natural Gas Act to DOE’s authorization of LNG exports at a Texas facility largely governed the resolution of the instant case, as well as two other cases concerning facilities in Louisiana and Texas. The court addressed three narrow issues that remained in one or more of the cases. First, it said the determination not to prepare an environmental impact statement in this case and one of the other cases was not arbitrary and capricious. Second, it found that DOE had not acted arbitrarily and capriciously by not conducting more localized analysis of where the Maryland facility's exports would result in increased production. Finally, in all three cases, the court found that DOE adequately considered distributional impacts in its evaluation of “public interest” under the Natural Gas Act. 01/31/2017 Brief Download Reply brief filed by Sierra Club. 01/05/2017 Brief Download Brief filed by respondent-intervenor American Petroleum Institute. 01/05/2017 Brief Download Initial brief filed by intervenor Dominion Cove Point LNG, LP. 12/15/2016 Brief Download Answering brief filed by Department of Energy. Department of Energy Defended Conclusion That LNG Exports Would Not Have Significant Environmental Impact. The United States Department of Energy (DOE) submitted a brief to the D.C. Circuit arguing that it had reasonably concluded that its authorization of exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the Dominion Cove Point terminal in Maryland would not have a significant impact on the environment. DOE said that it had taken a hard look at potential impacts of export-induced gas production, potential impacts from induced domestic coal consumption, and the climate impacts of induced gas production. DOE defended the reasonableness of its determination that it could not “meaningfully forecast” indirect effects from induced natural gas production and from foreign consumption of U.S.-produced LNG, but noted that it had nonetheless prepared an “Environmental Addendum” on potential impacts of accelerated natural gas production and a Life Cycle Analysis of the potential upstream and downstream effects on global greenhouse gas emissions of LNG production, transport, and export. DOE also argued that it had reasonably concluded pursuant to the Natural Gas Act that the benefits of LNG export outweighed potential environmental harms and that it had considered possible unequal distribution of impacts. At the end of November, Sierra Club filed two other briefs challenging DOE authorization of LNG exports from facilities in Louisiana and Texas. The arguments in those proceedings were similar to the arguments made by Sierra Club in this case. 10/31/2016 Amicus Brief Download Amicus brief filed by environmental organizations. 10/24/2016 Brief Download Opening brief filed. Sierra Club Enumerated Shortcomings in Department of Energy NEPA Review for LNG Exports. Sierra Club filed its opening brief in its challenge to the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) authorization of the export of natural gas from Dominion Cove Point LNG, LP’s (Dominion’s ) facility in Maryland. Prior to approving Dominion’s application to export, DOE issued a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) based on an environmental assessment (EA) prepared by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for modifications to Dominion’s Maryland facility. Sierra Club argued that DOE had failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) because the EA did not consider the impacts, including climate impacts, of the increased domestic gas production and coal use that the authorized exports would cause. Sierra Club also argued that DOE should have considered the “downstream” impacts, including end users’ combustion of the exported gas. Sierra Club also contended that the FONSI was arbitrary because DOE had acknowledged that there would be increased gas production and that gas production had many potentially significant environmental impacts. Sierra Club said that DOE could not cite documents prepared outside the NEPA process as evidence of its “hard look,” including an “addendum” prepared by DOE or three reports prepared by the National Energy Technology Laboratory, including a “Global Life Cycle Report” that considered greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation abroad, including generation using liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the United States. Sierra Club also argued that DOE’s findings under the Natural Gas Act that the exports would be in the public interest were arbitrary and capricious because DOE had failed to identify and characterize environmental impacts to weigh against the benefits of exports. 08/08/2016 Order Download Order issued. American Petroleum Institute, Dominion to Defend DOE’s NEPA Review for LNG Exports. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals authorized intervention by the American Petroleum Institute and Dominion Cove Point LNG, LP in Sierra Club’s challenge to DOE’s authorization of the export of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the Cove Point LNG Terminal in Maryland. During the administrative process leading up to the export approval, DOE rejected Sierra Club’s arguments that its environmental review should have accounted for indirect effects including greenhouse gas emissions from induced natural gas production and increased coal consumption. 06/15/2016 Petition for Review Download Petition for review filed. Sierra Club Challenged Authorization to Export LNG from Cove Point Terminal. Sierra Club filed a petition for review in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals seeking to overturn the Department of Energy’s authorizations of the export of LNG from the Cove Point LNG Terminal in Maryland. The Department of Energy denied Sierra Club’s request for rehearing in April, rejecting Sierra Club’s arguments that it had not adequately considered greenhouse gas impacts and that it should have considered induced natural gas production and increased coal consumption as indirect effects of its action.