A major liquefied natural gas export project on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana would result in “disproportionately high and adverse” impacts for nearby environmental justice communities if completed, staff at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission concluded in an analysis last week.
The finding could influence the independent commission’s decision on the proposed Commonwealth LNG project, one of eight gas export facilities being developed or under construction in the southwestern corner of Louisiana.
The conclusion — included in the agency's final environmental impact statement for Commonwealth LNG — suggests a potential turning point in FERC’s consideration of equity and environmental justice effects, according to activists who oppose the project.
Environmental justice refers to the fair treatment and protection of all people from environmental harms. It's a stated priority of President Joe Biden, who has promised to advance a “whole-of-government” approach to reducing inequities in infrastructure development and pollution.
“Just the fact that they’ve found environmental justice impacts is significant,” said Naomi Yoder, a staff scientist at the environmental group Healthy Gulf.
Slated to begin operating in 2026, Commonwealth LNG would be capable of exporting up to 1.18 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day to markets overseas. Last week, developer Commonwealth LNG LLC announced its first contract to sell gas from its proposed facility to the Australian energy company Woodside Energy Group.
In its environmental impact statement, or EIS, FERC staff concluded that most of Commonwealth LNG’s environmental impacts could be brought to “less than significant levels” or would only occur during the construction phase. However, agency officials found that the facility’s development in tandem with other industrial projects in the area — including other LNG terminals — would result in adverse cumulative impacts for low-income and minority environmental justice communities.
More ($): FERC review puts proposed La. LNG terminal under EJ scrutiny