The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected a legal challenge by environmental groups against a federal permit for the Driftwood liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal and pipeline project in southwest Louisiana.
Environmentalists Claimed Permit Violated Federal Laws
The Sierra Club and the Healthy Gulf organization had filed a petition in April 2022, asking the appeals court to review and vacate the permit granted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Driftwood project. They claimed that the permit violated the Administrative Procedure Act, the Clean Water Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act. They argued that the Corps failed to adequately assess the environmental impacts of the project, such as greenhouse gas emissions, wetland loss, and coastal erosion.
Appeals Court Found No Merit in Petitioners’ Arguments
However, in a 26-page ruling issued on Wednesday, September 6, 2023, a panel of three appellate judges found no merit in the petitioners’ arguments. The court said that the Corps had complied with the relevant federal laws and regulations, and had properly considered the public interest and the alternatives to the project. The court also noted that the Corps had imposed several mitigation measures to minimize the environmental harm caused by the project, such as requiring wetland restoration, compensatory mitigation, and monitoring plans.
Driftwood Project Aims to Export LNG by 2027
The Driftwood project is being developed by Tellurian Inc., a Houston-based company that plans to export LNG to global markets. The project consists of a LNG terminal on the west bank of the Calcasieu River, south of Lake Charles, and a 96-mile pipeline that would connect to existing interstate pipelines. The terminal would have a capacity of 27.6 million tonnes per annum of LNG, equivalent to about 4 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas. The project is expected to cost about $16.8 billion and create about 6,400 jobs during construction and 400 jobs during operation. Tellurian has said that it hopes to begin LNG production by 2027.
Environmentalists Vow to Continue Fighting Against LNG Projects
The ruling by the appeals court is a setback for environmentalists who have been opposing several LNG projects in Louisiana and other states. They contend that LNG projects contribute to climate change by increasing the demand for fossil fuels and releasing greenhouse gases during production, transportation, and consumption. They also claim that LNG projects pose risks to public health and safety, wildlife habitats, and water quality. The Sierra Club and the Healthy Gulf organization have said that they will continue fighting against LNG projects in Louisiana and elsewhere.