The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia decided that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) failed to adequately analyze the impact of the proposed Rio Grande LNG and Texas LNG plants’ greenhouse gas emissions on climate change and minority or low-income communities in Cameron County, Tex. The court, however, did not vacate the orders allowing the projects to proceed.
FERC had determined that the projects would “contribute incrementally to future climate change impacts,” but that it could not obtain “information relevant to [those] impacts . . . because the means to obtain it [were] not known,” the court said. Therefore, 40 C.F.R. § 1502.21(c) would seem to have required the Commission to “evaluat[e] . . . such impacts based upon theoretical approaches or research methods generally accepted in the scientific community.” The court went on to note that FERC “did not discuss, or even cite, 40 C.F.R. § 1502.21(c) in its rehearing order. Nor did it do so in its briefing in this case. Nor did it cite any previous decision by this Court or the Commission addressing the significance of the regulation in any detail.” Because the Commission “failed to respond to significant opposing viewpoints concerning the adequacy of its analyses of the projects’ greenhouse gas emissions,” the court said, “we find its analyses deficient” under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Administrative Procedure Act.
US Circuit Judge Robert Wilkins added that FERC acted arbitrarily when it "offered no explanation" as to why it limited its environmental justice analysis to an area within only two miles of the project sites. Cameron County’s population is nearly entirely Hispanic/Latino and almost one third live belove the poverty line, according to complainants.
“We are pleased the Court affirmed the validity of the FERC authorization of our Rio Grande LNG project and we look forward to the FERC’s response to the Court’s requests,” said Matt Schatzman, NextDecade Corp.’s chairman and chief executive officer. “Efforts to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions are at the very foundation of our company and we have already announced actions to reduce emissions at Rio Grande LNG by more than 90% through use of carbon capture and storage.”
NextDecade wholly owned subsidiary, Next Carbon Solutions, is developing one of the largest carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects in North America at NextDecade’s 27-million tonne/year (tpy) Rio Grande LNG plant, expected to capture and permanently store more than 5 million tpy of carbon dioxide (OGJ Online, Mar. 26, 2021). NextDecade anticipates reaching a final investment decision (FID) on at least two trains of its 27-million tpy Rio Grande LNG plant by end-2021.
Glenfarne Group also plans FID this year on its 4-million tpy Texas LNG project.