Alaska LNG project resolves legal challenge over environmental damage

Alaska LNG project resolves legal challenge over environmental damage



Backers say the project could help the US compete with Russia in Asia


Court supports FERC environmental and emissions analysis

By Clark Mindock

(Reuters) – A US appeals court on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit brought by environmental groups challenging federal approvals needed to build a $39 billion project that would move natural gas from Alaska’s North Slope across the state .

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s review of plans for the state-run Alaska Gasline Development Corp project met the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act to look closely at environmental impacts of major proposals, and that the approvals complied with the Natural Gas Act and other laws.

The Alaska LNG project would transport natural gas along a pipeline that cuts across the state from north to south. Backers say it could help the United States compete with Russia in shipping natural gas from the Arctic to Asia. But environmental groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club, who filed a lawsuit in 2020, claimed it would “wreak havoc” on Alaska’s wildlife and climate.

According to Tim Fitzpatrick, a spokesman for the developer, construction on the 800-mile pipeline and associated infrastructure has not yet begun. He said on Tuesday that they are now in the process of choosing investors.

Kristen Monsell, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, said Tuesday they are disappointed with the ruling, but that “the battle is not over.”

FERC declined to comment.

The judges said Tuesday that FERC has adequately considered how noises and shipping traffic could harm endangered beluga whales and how construction could affect wetlands, despite concerns from environmental groups.

The court also supported FERC’s method of analyzing the significance of the project’s projected greenhouse gas emissions by comparing them to existing national and country emissions. The court said the agency was under no obligation to rely on the social cost of carbon metrics that the groups felt were better suited for that analysis.

The decision comes after the U.S. Department of Energy issued major export approvals for the project last month. Those approvals face a separate legal challenge filed by the environmental groups.

The case is Center for Biological Diversity v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, No. 20-1379.

For environmental groups: Erin Colón, Jeremy Lieb, and Sara Gersen of Earthjustice; and Kristen Monsell and Elizabeth Jones of the Center for Biological Diversity

For FERC: Lona Perry and Robert Solomon of FERC

For the Alaska Gasline Development Corp: Kenneth Minesinger and Howard Nelson of Greenberg Traurig (reporting by Clark Mindock)