| WASHINGTON, March 31
WASHINGTON, March 31 The U.S. environmental
regulator has raised concerns that a federal review of Sempra
Energy's proposed liquefied natural gas export project
did not include an assessment of the potential effects of more
natural gas drilling.
The Environmental Protection Agency issued its finding
earlier this month. It urged the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission to weigh indirect greenhouse gas emissions and other
environmental effects that would flow from the increase in gas
drilling needed to support exports from the Cameron plant in
The Department of Energy approved exports from the project
in February, but the plant must still get clearances from FERC.
The EPA's assessment is a fresh angle in the long running
debate of how much LNG the U.S. should export.
FERC should "consider the extent to which implementation of
the proposed project could increase the demand for domestic
natural gas extraction, as well as potential environmental
impacts associated with the potential increased production of
natural gas," the EPA said in response to the commission's draft
review of the project.
The finding, dated March 3, was released by FERC late on
FERC has long resisted calls from environmental groups such
as the Sierra Club to consider the effects of shale gas
production in its review of the safety and environmental impacts
of LNG export facilities.
A spokeswoman said FERC would take the EPA's comments and
other public input into consideration as it crafts its final
environmental review, currently set for release by April 30.
Energy analysts said FERC will probably decide there is no
need for an extensive analysis of the indirect greenhouse gas
emissions that would be caused by one LNG export project.
A federal appeals court ruled in FERC's favor in 2012 in a
similar case regarding Crestwood Midstream Partner's
Marc 1 natural gas pipeline. In that case, environmental groups
argued that the commission should have done a more expansive
review of the impact of natural gas production.
"I don't think FERC will defer to Sierra Club's or EPA's
issues on the upstream unless or until regulations change," said
Christi Tezak, energy analyst for ClearView Energy Partners.
The shale gas boom, spurred by advances in drilling
techniques such as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has led to
record U.S. natural gas production and paved the way for the
United States to become a major gas exporter.
Fracking involves injecting water, sand and chemicals
underground at high pressure to extract fuel. Critics have
blamed the practice for water contamination and say that
increased drilling is polluting the air.
(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe, editing by Ros Krasny and David