Friday Trash Dump: Obama DOE Approves 2nd Fracked Gas LNG Export Terminal

Read time: 3 mins

Friday is the proverbial “take out the trash day” for the release of bad news among public relations practitioners and this Friday was no different. 

In that vein, yesterday the Obama Department of Energy (DOEannounced a conditional approval of the second-ever LNG (liquefied natural gas) export terminal. 

LNG is the super-chilled final product of gas obtained - predominantly in today's context - via the controversial hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) process taking place within shale deposits located throughout the U.S. Fracked gas is shipped from the multitude of domestic shale basins in pipelines to various coastal LNG terminals, and then sent on LNG tankers to the global market.

The name of the terminal: Freeport LNG.

Freeport LNG is 50-percent owned by ConocoPhillips and located in Freeport, Texas, an hour-long car ride south of Houston. The export facility is the second one approved by the Obama DOE, with the first one - the Sabine Pass terminal, owned by Cheniere and located in Sabine Pass, Louisiana - approved in May 2011

DOE gave its rubber stamp of approval to Freeport LNG to export up to 1.4 billion cubic feet of LNG per day from its terminal. 

Moniz's DOE is Dept. of LNG Exports

The announcement comes in the aftermath of an April DeSmogBlog investigation revealing that recently confirmed Energy Department Secretary Ernest Moniz - a former member of the Board of Directors of ICF International - has a binder full of conflicts-of-interest in any decision the DOE makes to export the U.S. shale gas bounty.

As we explained in that investigation, a Feb. 2013 “study” published by the American Petroleum Institute (API) and conducted on its behalf by ICF International concluded exporting shale gas was on the economically sound up-and-up.

ICF is a consulting firm that teams up with oil and gas industry corporations and was one of three firms that did the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on behalf of the U.S. State Department for the northern half of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline. The SEIS was published in March 2013. 

Furthermore, among the members of the Obama Administration's industry-stacked DOE Fracking Subcommittee formed in May 2011 was Kathleen “Katie” McGinty. McGinty formerly served as Vice President Al Gore’s top climate aide during the Clinton Administration, segueing from that position into one as chair of the Clinton Council on Environmental Quality from 1993-1998. Her husband is Karl Hausker, the Vice President of ICF International.

In Dec. 2012, the DOE - like API/ICFsaid exporting LNG was economically sound. The DOE's LNG exports economics study itself was published by another industry-tied firm, NERA (National Economic Research Associates) Economic Consulting.  

Given the myriad ties that bind, it's tough to fathom any other decision being made by the DOE on Freeport or any other LNG export terminal from here on out. And the ecological consequences of that will be disastrous. 

Exporting LNG will lead to more drilling – and more drilling means more fracking, more air and water pollution, and more climate fueled weather disasters like last year's record fires, droughts, and superstorms,” Deb Nardone, Director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Natural Gas campaign said in a press release in response to the DOE announcement. 

Once environmental impacts are evaluated, it becomes clear that the additional fracking and gas production exports would induce is unacceptable.

Photo Credit: ShutterStock Brian A. Jackson

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Shipping via LNG, invites domestic gas (shale or other) to the world market and commodity exchanges (i.e.. London). The domestic price will go up allowing for an increase in development and delivery (capital) investment. Those investing will become happy and promote shale gas as an unmitigated success. As natural gas cost goes up so does electricity and ultimately retail rates for heating gas and electricity. And as we all know price fixing never happens in commodity exchanges. (that was satire, see EU raid on Statoil, Shell and BP this past week)

Clinton and the blue dog democrats are not environmentalists. This includes Obama. Also, ICF is one of those government contractors that seem to glom onto every weird function associated with largess. ICF International was ICF Kaiser during the go-go 1980s environmental remediation push. When the Republicans cut funding to Superfund and RCRA, ICF went back to high end (i.e. 3.5 to 4.0 multipliers on billing rates) management and technical consulting for DOD and DOE, like SAIC, Batelle, and Booz Allen and Hamilton. Moniz is just a long line of technocrats and goofs that cycle in and out of government, academia and consulting - with an occasional visit to industry.