This week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected a challenge by the Sierra Club to the Freeport LNG facility, a natural gas export project in Texas. The Sierra Club’s strategy was fairly typical in the playbook of challenges to infrastructure projects: argue that the permitting agencies didn’t consider X, Y or Z and hope the court either forces the agency to start over or take more time to review. Every extra day of waiting increases the chances the project will be shelved.
In this case, the complaint was that the Department of Energy didn’t adequately consider the indirect effects of building the terminal or the greenhouse gas emissions that could result from increased natural gas production. The D.C. Circuit denied each of Sierra Club’s claims. This is a positive development not only for Freeport LNG but also for the industry as a whole: the Sierra Club has four more challenges to LNG projects pending at the same court on similar grounds.
Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump both agreed that LNG exports are in the national interest, yet we somehow can’t seem to stop fighting about them. For our part, manufacturers support free trade and open markets in the context of LNG exports. If someone sees a market opportunity to export LNG and is willing to run the gauntlet of permitting laws and regulations necessary to build one of these multi-billion-dollar structures, then the government shouldn’t be in the business of erecting unnecessary barriers. That’s why the NAM has consistently called for expedited decisions on each of the pending LNG export licenses. These are massive infrastructure projects with deep manufacturing supply chains, and the federal government’s experts have found time and again that these projects will yield net economic benefits.
We’re glad to see Freeport LNG get over this latest hurdle and hope it is a sign of good things to come.
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