FERC Acts Against Climate and Southwest Louisiana Communities in Rubber Stamping Commonwealth LNG

Approval Ignores Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Environmental Justice

WASHINGTON, DC - Despite clear evidence that liquified methane gas (LNG) exports are harmful to domestic energy consumers and are disastrous for frontline communities and the climate, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved Commonwealth LNG export terminal, the first such certification in 2.5 years. Commonwealth LNG will emit more than 3.5 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent every year, so the decision to approve this project despite a lack of consideration for these emissions is a major concern. Many of the Commissioners, including Chairman Richard Glick, expressed reservations about the project moving forward, but all voted yes even in light of those concerns. 

This decision comes at a time when President Biden has just returned from the COP27 Climate Conference focused on ways to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. During the conference, Climate Action Tracker released a new analysis that found that the carbon emissions from all under-construction, approved, and proposed LNG projects will make it impossible to stay below climate warming targets. In the US alone, domestic LNG export facilities would contribute to the climate crisis at levels equivalent to 640 coal plants or 515 million cars, according to the Sierra Club analysis and new US LNG Tracker tool. 

Director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign Cathy Collentine said, “It is appalling that FERC would approve Commonwealth LNG without considering the impacts the export terminal would have on the climate and public health and without relevant permits. FERC’s decision is not in the public interest for people who use gas to heat their homes, and will only further pollute environmental justice communities on the Gulf Coast overburdened by pollution that harms their environment and makes them sick. The companies that frack and export gas are hoping to capitalize on a volatile global market to lock us into decades of fossil fuel production that lines their pockets at the expense of American energy consumers and today FERC sided with them to do just that. We will continue to do all we can to stop the expansion of unnecessary LNG exports.”

Current levels of LNG exports are enough to meet the needs of Europe who sought replacements of Russian supplied gas and further expansion will do nothing to address energy security issues. In its annual World Energy Outlook, the International Energy Agency said, “No one should imagine that Russia’s invasion can justify a wave of new oil and gas infrastructure in a world that wants to reach net zero emissions by 2050.” 

Southwest Louisiana Coordinator of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade James Hiatt, said, “Commonwealth LNG proposes to build a liquefaction and export terminal directly at the mouth of the Calcasieu River - in a community already ravaged by a succession of major hurricanes, coastal erosion, and its susceptibility to sea-level-rise. This gas export terminal is clearly not in the public or national interest, and certainly not in the interest of the people and communities they are trying to build in. FERC has shirked its duty to center its permitting responsibility on the people and communities that would be most impacted by the project. The long term environmental and climate damages far outweigh any perceived economical impact this facility would provide a local community. We continue to demand that FERC be accountable to the people and not to corporations.” 

John Allaire, resident of Cameron, Louisiana said, “FERC made the wrong decision by approving Commonwealth LNG. This gas export terminal is not in the public interest and does nothing but harm our beautiful community here on the Gulf Coast. These LNG companies aren’t trying to save the planet, they just want to make money - it’s all about profit and we have to pay the price. We have to live with higher energy prices and we have to live with the pollution. It’s time for FERC and other agencies to start putting our interests first.

Naomi Yoder, staff scientist for Healthy Gulf, said, “The decision by FERC to rubber-stamp the Commonwealth LNG project in southwest Louisiana is reprehensible. Commonwealth LNG will impact a total of 230 acres of land and water, including a ‘marine area’ twice the span of the existing Calcasieu Ship Channel at the mouth. In addition to the severe environmental destruction of the land, the project will entrench and further systemic environmental injustice in the region. The public has not had a chance to advocate for their communities since FERC’s recent environmental justice analysis. There is no justification for this project, and the environmental impact statement clearly shows that. It is unthinkable that FERC has given this project the go-ahead, with the lack of concern for people, the climate, and southwest Louisiana.”

Commonwealth LNG would be located in Cameron, Louisiana, just south of Lake Charles. If built, it would be one of three massive LNG facilities in this small town of 700 people, and one of nine planned or operating export terminals in the region. Communities on the frontline of these polluting facilities have long been calling for an end to reckless LNG expansion. Southwest Louisiana frontline leaders recently met with Chairman Glick to voice their concerns, including Roishetta Ozane, the SWLA organizing director for Healthy Gulf, who spoke at COP27 and urged President Biden and other global decision makers to stop the fracked gas export buildout. Earlier this month, frontline leaders and shrimpers highlighted the impacts of pollution on health and water during a parade of pontoon and shrimp boats outside the Golden Nugget casino in Lake Charles, Louisiana as the biggest fracked gas corporations gathered for the Americas LNG and Gas Summit and Exhibition. Ahead of today’s FERC meeting, residents of Freeport, Texas, the location of a recent explosion at an LNG export facility, held a press conference to demand a review and update of the requirements and emergency response plans governing existing and proposed LNG export facilities, which pose a danger to local communities.

About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.