The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) reached an agreement that may provide a path forward for consideration of LNG export terminals that are pending before the commission.

In the context of its approval Feb. 21 of Venture Global’s Calcasieu Pass LNG export project in Cameron Parish, La., the commission applied a new approach for consideration of direct greenhouse gas emissions from LNG facilities. 

“Since I joined the commission, it’s been a priority of mine to expedite and improve our LNG terminal application review process,” FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee said on Feb. 21. “I’m extremely pleased that we are issuing the certificate order for the Calcasieu Pass LNG export terminal today. This facility will have the capacity to export 12 million metric tons of U.S. LNG per year. But even more so, I really appreciate the efforts of my colleagues to work together to come to an agreement on this facility. This is significant, as I anticipate we’ll be able to use the framework developed in this order to evaluate the other LNG certificates that the commission is considering.”

In her concurring statement, Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur noted that “the disclosure of the national comparison data is only the first step to assist the Commission in ascribing significance to a given rate or volume of GHG emissions as part of our climate change analysis. The magnitude of the direct GHG emissions from the Calcasieu Pass Project certainly appear to be significant, as contemplated by NEPA.”

LaFleur added that FERC has yet to establish a framework for determining significance but reiterated her previous position.

“As I have previously explained, using the Social Cost of Carbon could enable the Commission to assess the significance of GHG emissions,” she wrote. While the Commission has argued that monetizing climate damages through the Social Cost of Carbon does not readily lend itself to the Commission’s environmental review of natural gas facilities, I am confident that, given the importance of this issue, the Commission could find a way to adapt and apply a metric such as the Social Cost of Carbon to reach a significance threshold determination.”

Chatterjee added that FERC’s multi-pronged approach to improve its process over the past year put the agency in a position to move forward efficiently with the other 12 pending LNG projects.

“We signed an MOU with the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, cut through unnecessary red tape and reduced inter-agency friction by signing the One Federal Decision MOU with our federal partners, and increased the number of engineers working on our reviews by casting a wide net to capture talent everywhere we could find it,” he said.

“This is a matter of truly strategic significance, and we as an agency are dedicated to doing our part in this historic American moment by conducting thorough, efficient and legally durable reviews of every LNG terminal application we receive,” Chatterjee added. “I’m proud of the hard work and long hours that FERC staff—specifically our Office of Energy Projects and Office of the General Counsel—has put into bringing us to this point.” 

Chatterjee also thanked his fellow commissioners for working on the agreement. “Commissioner [Bernard] McNamee showed just how he got his reputation as being a ‘lawyer’s lawyer’ through his attention to the law and work to find common ground. And Commissioner LaFleur was supportive of this project and constructive in working to reach our agreement.”