The methane gas (so-called "natural" gas) industry relies on disjointed processes and lack of public awareness to shuttle dirty, dangerous liquefied methane gas (LNG) projects through without too much public scrutiny. It can be tough to understand the scope of what LNG export projects are being proposed and where they stand in the regulatory and permitting process. An added challenge is untangling the financial web of who is funding these dirty infrastructure projects. A new interactive tool from Sierra Club helps change that by shining a light on all existing and proposed US LNG export projects by compiling the permitting, financing, environmental justice, and emissions information in one place.
Currently, LNG export terminal information is scattered among many different sources. Vital data on a project’s ownership, status, scheduling, permitting, financing, cost, purchase agreements, and environmental impacts are spread across numerous websites that can be difficult to navigate or access. These sources include the developer’s website and materials, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Department of Energy (DOE), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In addition to this, there are few resources that present this information for not just individual projects at a time, but for many projects at once, allowing for direct comparisons and identification of cumulative impacts. This tool combines and presents information from across these sources along with additional Sierra Club analysis, through interactive and compelling visualizations, to increase transparency on these often complicated and opaque projects.
Here are some examples of features and interesting data that can be found in the tool:
- A map displaying the location of each project, demonstrating the significant concentration of existing and proposed projects along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast, in areas already overburdened by fossil fuel pollution;
- Prevalence of disadvantaged communities surrounding proposed projects;
- Depictions of how far off-schedule most projects are from original anticipated dates;
- A tally of the billions of dollars that have flown from financial institutions to these potential stranded costs;
- A ranking of the companies that have committed to purchase LNG from these terminals for decades into the future, when we need to be well on our way to zeroing out fossil fuel usage.
For instance, Rio Grande LNG and Texas LNG Brownsville are two terminals proposed in Brownsville, Texas, at the southernmost tip of the state. The tracker shows how the three-mile radius around these terminals overlaps communities considered disadvantaged by the Council on Environmental Quality. These terminals are being sited in majority people of color communities that have incomes lower than 70-81% of the country.
Every step of the way — from extraction by fracking, to transport by pipeline for energy-intensive liquefaction, then export by tanker, and finally combustion for end use — these projects release significant amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas and a major contributor to the climate crisis. A recent analysis by Sierra Club found annual emissions from planned LNG terminals could emit greenhouse gas pollution equivalent to that of 355 million cars each year — that’s more than all the registered vehicles across the entire United States.
Expanding LNG exports will drive an increase in fracking and associated pollution in the United States, leaving our communities to suffer from increased air and water pollution and the negative health impacts caused by this pollution. Further, communities are forced to pay increased energy costs while fossil fuel companies reap all the benefits. Many of the communities on the frontlines of these existing and proposed facilities are already bearing the brunt of devastating fossil fuel pollution, as well as the impacts of extreme weather driven by climate change. Neither these communities, nor our climate, can afford expanded LNG exports.
Johanna Heureaux-Torres, PhD, is Energy Campaigns Analyst for the Sierra Club.