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Alaska LNG fires back at environmental groups, says state has 'unique' role

After environmental groups sought to block the proposed Alaska LNG project, the state-backed developer contested the groups' claims that the massive venture would benefit only corporate interests, saying the "unique" role of the state government ensures the public interest is shared by project sponsors.

In separate motions to intervene in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's review of the project, the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity urged regulators to consider impacts to wildlife, air and water that they said would come from increased gas drilling as well as the project itself. The Sierra Club, which has challenged the commission's approval of other LNG export projects, also called on FERC to look at non-environmental issues, saying the review must "consider whether most people will be made worse off by the project, even if a few people — e.g., the project's corporate backers — will experience great benefits." The Sierra Club asked FERC to deny the project.

But the Alaska Gasline Development Corp., or AGDC, said the Sierra Club "erroneously ignores the unique nature of the project's owner."

"Ironically, the Sierra Club's erroneous reference to the 'project's corporate backers' demonstrates the opposite of the point it is trying to make," the state agency wrote in a June 6 motion. "It is precisely because this project is sponsored by a state government, which is required by its constitution to use the state's natural resources for the benefit its citizens, that the interests of the applicant and the public coincide."

The Alaska LNG project was originally a joint venture of AGDC and North Slope majors BP plc, ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil Corp. Following the expiration of a Dec. 31, 2016, agreement among the four parties to prepare for front-end engineering and design activities, the state took over leadership of the project, launching a formal application at FERC in April.

Other environmental groups have also asked to be a part of the FERC review, although some took a softer stance than the Sierra Club. The Northern Alaska Environmental Center said while the project "represents an investment in continued fossil fuel production for decades to come," the group does not yet know enough about project details and potential impacts to take a position.

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, private companies and individuals have entered the FERC docket to voice support for the project, which they said would liberate the state's stranded gas reserved and create thousands of jobs. The project, estimated to cost between $40 billion and $45 billion, faces challenging market conditions and competition from a long list of other proposed LNG export ventures. As currently designed, the Nikiski, Alaska, LNG export terminal would include three liquefaction trains capable of producing 20 million tonnes per annum and three 160,000-cubic-meter storage tanks. It would receive gas through an 800-mile pipeline. (FERC docket CP17-178)