* US DOE can model impact of exports on production-report
* Sierra Club has challenged review of LNG projects
* Green groups say more exports mean more fracking
By Ayesha Rascoe
WASHINGTON, Nov 29 The Obama administration has
the tools to carry out a more extensive environmental review of
the effects of expanding U.S. natural gas exports, but has so
far refused to do so, the Sierra Club said in report released on
The environmental group is pushing the administration to
assess the impact of drilling as the Energy Department weighs
whether to allow more liquefied natural gas exports - a debate
that so far has centered mostly on economic arguments.
The department "has refused to prepare an environmental
impact statement to help it wrestle with the weighty export
decisions," the group said in a report laying out its case for a
broader environmental review.
"Worse, it has refused even to acknowledge that it has the
tools to do so, even though its own modeling system could go far
to help answer the vital questions now before it."
The issue of potential LNG exports has become an
increasingly hot-button topic.
Some lawmakers contend that exports would inevitably
increase prices for domestic users, while others argue exports
are necessary to support strong domestic production.
Seeking to ensure they will not be left out of the debate,
groups like the Sierra Club have ratcheted up their attacks on
proposed export projects, which they say will lead to expanded
use of a controversial drilling practice, hydraulic fracturing.
The Obama administration rejected the Sierra Club's earlier
request to intervene in the case of Cheniere's Sabine
Pass terminal in Louisiana, the first and so far only LNG export
facility to be approved by the current administration.
It argued that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's
environmental assessment, which focused on the effects of
building the terminal, was sufficient.
The department said it cannot reasonably foresee how much
drilling would increase, and where, due to permitting of an
individual project. But the Sierra Club contends the
department's National Energy Modeling System (NEMS) can model
the effects of increased exports on gas production.
The same model was used in the report released by the
department's Energy Information Administration in January
evaluating the potential price impacts of allowing more
companies to sell gas abroad.
MORE EXPORTS = MORE FRACKING?
Advances in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing
have allowed drillers to tap vast shale gas resources, placing
the United States in a position to become a major gas exporter
after years of concerns the it would need to rely on imports.
Critics of shale gas production say fracking, which involves
injecting a cocktail of water, sand and chemicals underground to
release fuel, threatens the safety of drinking water, and that
the rise in shale drilling pollutes the air.
Drillers dispute the notion that fracking is unsafe, saying
the practice has been carried out for decades without
significantly harming the environment.
Gas exports to all but a handful of countries need approval
from the Energy Department. After approving Sabine Pass, the
department said it would postpone decisions on additional export
applications pending the release of a economic study, expected
within the next few weeks.