Environmental groups challenge Alaska North Slope natural gas project
August 16, 2023
Environmental groups have asked a federal appeals court to overturn the Biden administration’s approval of exports from the proposed $44 billion project to sell North Slope natural gas.
The Sierra Club and Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition with the U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia on Friday, Aug. 11, seeking to reverse the Department of Energy approval granted in April to the state-led project that would send North Slope gas to Asian markets.
The environmental groups argue that the massive project would unleash too much carbon into the atmosphere, exacerbating climate change.
“The federal government should not be approving this project at this point in the climate crisis,” said Erin Colón, senior staff attorney for Earthjustice, which is representing the Center for Biological Diversity in the case.
The state-owned Alaska Gasline Development Corp. has pursued the project for years, spending several hundred million dollars for design, engineering, permitting, legal and marketing efforts.
The development would include 807 miles of pipeline from Prudhoe Bay on the North Slope to a tidewater site at Cook Inlet in Nikiski in Southcentral Alaska, where the gas would be liquefied and loaded onto tankers for ocean shipments.
The state and various industry players have tried over the past half century to develop some kind of pipeline system to move the gas, but nothing has passed the economic feasibility test.
A representative of the state gasline corporation said the groups’ criticisms about climate impacts are misguided.
The Alaska liquefied natural gas (LNG) project will reduce emissions in countries that burn the gas instead of coal. “Alaska LNG successfully completed rigorous environmental review across two successive administrations with strong bipartisan backing,” Tim Fitzpatrick, head of external affairs, said in an emailed statement.
A previous legal challenge filed by the Sierra Club in 2020, which also cited climate-change concerns, resulted in a pause by the Department of Energy in 2021. The department conducted a supplemental environmental impact statement that considered the climate-change issues. That new environmental analysis was completed in early 2023 and triggered the export-permit approval in April.
Though many industry analysts consider the prospects for the Alaska LNG project to be dim, Colón said the environmental groups believe their legal action is necessary. “There will be no later opportunity to challenge the federal permits.”
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