EPA raises environmental concerns about Corpus Christi LNG

Environmental regulators raised concerns about the potential effects a proposed natural gas export terminal in Corpus Christi could have on the surrounding communities even though another federal agency dismissed the impacts as negligible.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said in October that the Corpus Christi LNG project will not significantly harm the environment, primarily because it’s being developed in an existing industrial area. But the Environmental Protection Agency said it still has concerns about impacts on minority neighborhoods and greenhouse gas emissions.

The project, proposed by Houston-based Cheniere Energy, is awaiting full federal approval before construction begins. The commission closed the record on the project in October with its final environmental review. While the EPA’s comments will be taken into consideration, commissioners do not have to address their concerns and could issue a decision regardless.

Related: Corpus Christi LNG clears hurdle toward federal approval

In its final environmental review, the commission said construction and operation of the terminal could have some adverse affects, they were mostly temporary, short-term and minimal. The agency also said Cheniere had committed to minimizing environmental impacts, including using a special dredge to reduce the cloudiness in the water, which can inhibit the growth of underwater plants on which fish and shellfish feed.

In a letter submitted earlier this month, the EPA alleged that the final environmental impact statement fails to show how maintenance and operation of a pipeline connected to Corpus Christi LNG will affect people who live nearby. The 23-mile pipeline will feed the plant with natural gas and will cross through a predominately minority neighborhood. The EPA had requested more information on how pipeline emergencies will be handled, including steps for notifying nearby residents. The commission has said the pipeline would cause minimal effects because it will be installed in existing rights-of-way that mostly cross farmland.

The EPA also asked for a broader analysis about the overall environmental footprint of such LNG export plants, which are expected to increase the demand for natural gas production. The agency called for the commission to disclose the total amount of air pollution that will be associated with the production, transport and combustion of natural gas  exported from the plant, saying it disagrees that greenhouse gas emissions outside of the United States fall outside the scope of its environmental review.

Climate change is a global problem, the EPA said. Domestically produced natural gas that increases air pollution overseas affects the U.S. too, the agency argued. Corpus Christi LNG is expected to produce 13.5 million metric tons of liquefied natural gas per year. Companies in Australia, Indonesia, Italy, Spain and France have agreed to buy the gas.