UPDATE 1-U.S. EPA asks for more time to review Cove Point LNG project

Mon Jun 9, 2014 5:33pm EDT

(Adds Dominion comment in last paragraph)

WASHINGTON, June 9 (Reuters) - U.S. environmental regulators have asked for more time to review a liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plant project planned for a site on a bay near Washington, D.C.

The Environmental Protection Agency, one of the departments that contributes to assessments of LNG projects, asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for a 30-day extension to conduct a review of Dominion Resources Inc's Cove Point liquefaction project in Maryland.

FERC, which assesses environmental and safety issues involving LNG projects, gave Cove Point a green light last month. It is expected to make a final decision on the project sometime this summer after a public comment period and input from agencies.

The additional time "will allow the agency to compile comments from its regional associate internal reviewers and the required need for EPA headquarters' review," the EPA said in a letter to FERC dated June 3, and released on Monday.

FERC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

U.S. green groups have also asked FERC to extend the public comment period by 60 days, which would push the deadline for public input to Aug. 13.

Some green groups say the plant, about an hour's drive from the nation's capital, would bring the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking to Maryland. They also say the process of super cooling natural gas for export and shipping it thousands of miles to customers in Asia and Europe reduces the environmental benefit of switching from coal to natural gas.

A Dominion spokesman said there has already been ample opportunity for the public to comment on environmental aspects of the project and that FERC's review last month raised no new issues that require an extended comment period. (Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Tom Brown)

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