By JIM SNYDER
Environmentalists fighting the Keystone XL pipeline are
rallying to block a Maryland natural gas export terminal as
momentum builds to use the US fuel as a weapon against
Russias intervention in Ukraine.
The energy required to liquefy and ship gas at Dominion
Resources' proposed Cove Point terminal in Maryland will
raise the fuels greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions
to the level of coal,
says Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action
Network. Such terminals threaten the climate like pipelines
tied to developing oil in Alberta, such as Keystone, he said.
This issue is a lot like the fight over tar
sands, Tidwell said in an interview. Its
gone from non-existent to the biggest environmental fight in
Maryland, and is on its way to being the biggest
environmental fight in the Mid-Atlantic.
Comparing Cove Point to the $5.4 billion pipeline project
thats fueled stiff
alist opposition shows
a challenge advocates face in pushing to use gas,
Americas newfound energy bounty, as a geopolitical
tool. The export terminals are a whole new category of
fossil fuel trouble, Bill McKibben, co-founder of the
environmental group 350.org
, said on a conference
call with reporters on Tuesday.
House Republicans introduced legislation to speed approval of
applications for more than 20 terminals like Cove Point, in
response to Russias actions. Russia, the second-largest
global producer of natural gas after the US, twice since 2006
has cut supplies to Ukraine, a conduit for energy to Europe
Russian President Vladimir Putin called for Russia to absorb
Crimea, where voters overwhelmingly backed secession, after
signing a draft treaty to take the Ukrainian peninsula. He
said Russia wasnt interested in annexing other parts of
the former Soviet republic.
Dominion said a study it commissioned by ICF International
found that liquefied natural gas exports would cut greenhouse
if the fuel replaces
coal as a way to make electricity.
Slowing or preventing natural gas exports from the
United States is a step in exactly the wrong direction for
those who are concerned about climate change, said
Pamela F. Faggert, Dominions chief environmental
officer and vice president of corporate compliance.
Chesapeake Climate Action Network, 350.org
Sierra Club and 13 other environmental groups said Tuesday in
a letter to President Barack Obama that the US should conduct
a more complete environment
al assessment of Cove
Point than planned.
Exporting natural gas would lock in place
infrastructure and economic dynamics that will make it almost
impossible for the world to avoid catastrophic climate
change, according to the letter.
Tidwell says approving terminals wont alter the
situation in Ukraine because the facilities
will take years to
The US allows exports to nations with free trade pacts. The
Energy Department conducts a more exhaustive market analysis
for proposals to export to nations without those deals.
That list includes all 28 nations in the Europe
an Union. Russia provides 30
percent of Europes gas needs using pipelines that cross
Ukraine. Export advocates said the USs growing energy
resources can reduce its allies reliance on Russian oil
Some businesses also oppose to the export push. Dow Chemical
leads a coalition fighting overseas sales, saying exports
might increase costs for an important ingredient for its
products in the US.
A group of four refiners are bucking the oil industrys
campaign to remove restrictions on crude oil exports, with
the US forecast set to overtake Saudi Arabia as the main
producer by 2015, according to the International Energy
Monroe Energy in Trainer, Pennsylvania, PBF Energy in
Parsippany, New Jersey, Alon USA Energy in Dallas and
Philadelphia Energy Solutions in Philadelphia formed the
Consumers and Refiners United for Domestic Energy Coalition
this month to lobby against removing export restrictions on
Jeffrey Peck, a Washington lobbyist for the coalition, said
lifting the restrictions will raise gasoline prices for
Americans and keep the US overly dependent on imported
Advocates say exports wont raise domestic costs because
global markets set the price. More exports will encourage
producers to keep drilling.
Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, said in a March 10
interview on Fox News that the US should lift oil and gas
Russia has a difficult time making a profit if oil goes
below $90 a barrel, Paul said. So, yes, part of
our energy policy
ought to be producing
enough that Russia cant dictate to Europe and that Europe
is not beholden to
Peck said the situation in Ukraine underscores the importance
of energy security, and that the US should be protective of
its own by limiting exports.
The oil and gas industry has sought to export more of the US
bounty as supplies rise because hydraulic fracturing and
horizontal drilling are unlocking stores previously
uneconomic to procure.
Advances in drilling techniques, including hydraulic
fracturing or fracking, have boosted US production of natural
gas by 35% from a decade-low 18 trillion cubic feet in 2005,
according to the Energy Information Administration.
The Energy Department has approved six applications for
s that would process 9.07
billion cubic feet/day of liquefied natural gas. Its
weighing 24 applications for projects to handle more than 31
billion cubic feet. The US produces an average of 69 billion
cubic feet/day of gas.
The rise in natural gas production has led to an increase in
the use of the fuel to generate electricity. That has helped
lower US greenhouse-gas emissions, because burning natural
gas releases about half the carbon
dioxide as coal.
Tidwell says the climate benefits are lost when emissions
to transport the fuel
overseas and from the energy it takes to cool the gas to a
liquid are considered.
Environmental groups oppose Keystone because it would carry
fuel from Albertas oil sands, and producing and using
the Canadian crude releases more carbon
than other forms of oil.
Only one export facility, Cheniere Energy's $10 billion
Sabine Pass terminal in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, has the
required approvals from the Energy Department and US Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission. Shipments are scheduled to
start in late 2015, according to the company.
Representative Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican,
introduced legislation to require the Energy Department to
approve all pending gas export projects. The project
s would still need to clear
federal environmental and safety reviews.
Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, a Michigan
Republican, said in a statement that passing the bill could
help supplant Russias influence on the
The House Energy and Commerce Committees energy and
power subcommittee plans to hold a hearing March 25 on a
Democratic Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts, who
opposes the push to expedite exports, introduced legislation
this month requiring the Energy Department to consider
several factors before approving export terminals.
The Energy Department must review proposals to ship to
countries lacking a free-trade agreement with the US.
The US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is
responsible for weighing the safety and environment
al risks associated
with the export facilities
, said last week that it
will determine by Aug. 13 whether to approve Dominions
plans for its Cove Point terminal.
Cove Point, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) southeast of
Washington, would deliver fuel to Japan and India
, according to data from
Poten & Partners Inc., a New York-based ship broker.