The US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission voted Sept. 21 to approve Sempra Energy's proposal to double the capacity of its 13.5 million mt/year Port Arthur LNG project as well as three other natural gas projects, overcoming an impasse that delayed decisions on the infrastructure in July.
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During FERC's monthly open meeting, the commission also granted Venture Global's request for the commission to raise the authorized capacity at its Calcasieu Pass LNG project to 12.4 million mt/year from 12 million mt/year (CP22-25).
Texas Eastern Transmission also got the go-ahead for its Venice Extension Project (CP22-15), comprising three miles and 63,800 hp of compression in Louisiana to carry 1.3 Bcf/d to Venture Global's Plaquemines, which has contracted for all the capacity.
The action followed a snag in July when six pending gas projects stalled as FERC struggled again over its approach to greenhouse gas consideration for gas projects. Some of the projects, such as the Port Arthur expansion approved Sept. 21, were long pending.
Developer Sempra applied for the expansion in February 2020 and is targeting a final investment decision in 2024, when the company also expects to commercially sanction a 6.75 million mt/year expansion of its existing Cameron LNG terminal in Louisiana, the company said in August.
Danly and Clements comments
Ahead of the Sept. 21 votes, Commissioner James Danly, who had dissented in part in July over FERC's approach on a Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line project approval, said the September approvals were "the result of extensive back and forth among commissioners." He concurred in part and dissented in part on the gas project orders Sept. 21.
Commissioner Allison Clements dissented in part on Sept. 21, saying she disagreed with what she termed her colleagues' view that it was impossible for FERC to determine the significance of GHG emissions linked to the facilities it approves.
"I believe we are required under the Natural Gas Act and under [the National Environmental Policy Act] to try to fully assess and consider climate impacts in our public interest determinations," Clements said. "I think that rather than looking for reasons the commission cannot assess climate impacts, we should objectively try to evaluate the ways that we can."
The Democrat was hopeful FERC would resolve the matter in its generic proceedings on gas project policies and improve the quality and legal durability of its decisions.
Chairman Willie Phillips declined to explain how the July impasse was resolved other than to say FERC now had the votes to act. "I continue to be prepared to vote on gas matters, just as we've done every other month," he said, emphasizing that each commissioner decides on a case-by-case basis.
One smaller project also winning commission authorization Sept. 21 was Northern Natural Gas' 9.8-mile, 51 MMcf/d Northern Lights 2023 Expansion in Minnesota and Wisconsin, providing for incremental peak winter service, with the goal of boosting flexibility in gas transportation for winter generation (CP22-138). While FERC's environmental report in March found most impacts would be reduced to less than significant levels with mitigation, the Sierra Club had contended the report fell short in analyzing GHGs, environmental justice and other matters.
There was no discussion of the two other gas project cases struck in July that have not yet received commission votes: the 150 MMcf/d GTN XPress Project or WBI's 20.6 MMcf/d Wahpeton Expansion Project.
Separately, the commissioners agreed to vote notationally the following week on two LNG items struck from the meeting agenda: rehearing orders on the Rio Grande LNG and Texas LNG project decisions.
The Sierra Club and other groups are challenging FERC's approval of the projects, both in Brownsville, Texas, at the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The commission agreed to the upcoming vote after Danly raised the issue, saying he wanted FERC to be able to submit the administrative record to the court of appeals. The court has not set a deadline for that record to be submitted, FERC General Counsel Matt Christiansen said at the meeting.
"Mostly what I am trying to do is just figure out a way to force the issue to conclusion because I am anxious to get these things voted on," Danly said.
While there was little sparring over gas projects at the meeting, protestors outside the building continued to criticize FERC for its action.
"We are here to demand that FERC stop approving these LNG projects, these fracked methane gas projects, because they do not support the public interest," said Elida Castillo, program director for Chispa Texas. "It is not in our public interest to see our bills go up."