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U.S. Review of LNG export plant should weigh shale gas impact – EPA

Sempra Energy proposed liquefied natural gas export project is on spot by the U.S. environmental regulator with concerns that it did not provide an assessment of the potential effects of further drilling of the natural gas.

Earlier last month, the Environmental Protection Agency released its findings. There were recommendations to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to look in to indirect greenhouse emissions and other environmental issues that can result from the increased gas drilling required in supporting exports from the Cameron plant in Louisiana.

Although the Department of Energy approved exports from the project in February, the plant still needs clearance from the FERC.

The EPA’s review is a new twist in the long running debate on the amount of LNG that the U.S. should export.

While responding to the commission draft review of the project, the EPA said FERC should consider the extent to which implementation of the proposed project could increase the demand for domestic natural gas extraction, and also the potential environmental impacts that come along with increased gas production.

The finding, dated March 3, was released by FERC later on Friday last week.

Nevertheless, FERC has over the past ignored requests from environmental groups including Sierra Club to consider the impacts of shale gas production in its review of the safety and environmental impacts of LNG export facilities.

FERC will now take EPA’s comments and other public opinions into consideration as it drafts its final environmental review, set for release on April 30, according to a spokeswoman.

In reference to energy analysts, there might not be any need for an extensive analysis of the indirect greenhouse gas emissions out of the LNG export.

In 2012, a federal court of appeal ruled in FERC favor in such a similar case regarding Crestwood Midstream Partner’s Music Marc 1 natural gas pipeline. Environmental groups in that particular case argued that the commission should have done further expansive review on the impact of natural gas production.

Christi Tezak, energy analyst for ClearView Energy Partners, said FERC is not likely to defer to Sierra Club’s or EPA’s issues on the upstream unless or until regulations change.

The U.S. has become a major natural gas exporter due to shale gas boom spurred by advanced drilling techniques such as fracking and hydraulic fracturing.

Fracking is the process where water, sand, and chemicals are injected underground at a high pressure to extract fuel. Critics argue that the method lead to contamination of water and allege that there is air pollution due to increased drilling.

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