Today, Sierra Club and Earthjustice filed for rehearing of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) decision to grant approval for the exports from the proposed Alaska LNG project, a $38.7 billion fossil-fuel infrastructure plan to export liquified methane gas (LNG). Sierra Club and Earthjustice are also representing Cook Inletkeeper and Center for Biological Diversity in the DOE rehearing request.
Earthjustice is also currently representing environmental groups in challenging another key approval for the Alaska LNG project by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
Alaska LNG would be capable of exporting 20 million metric tons of gas per year — a quantity that could result in over 50 million metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution emissions annually. While the export terminal project now has most of the approvals needed for it to move forward, local and environmental groups continue to pursue all legal pathways to keep Alaska LNG from moving forward. The request for rehearing is the next legal step in fighting DOE’s decision.
The following statements were issued in response to the rehearing request:
Andrea Feniger, Sierra Club Alaska Chapter Director: “We are committed to fighting Alaska LNG and other fossil fuel development projects that threaten Arctic wildlife and exacerbate the climate crisis by locking in decades of increased gas extraction and exports at a time when the science is clear that we must rapidly transition away from fossil fuels. Claiming that a project like this could possibly be in the public interest isn’t just out of step with the Biden administration’s stated commitment to climate action — it’s out of step with reality. This rehearing request is the next step in our fight to ensure that this ill-advised project is never built.”
Tyler Huling, Cook Inletkeeper Policy Director: “Cook Inletkeeper is disappointed in the Biden administration’s decision to approve Alaska LNG. This project would be harmful for our healthy watersheds, intact ecosystems, and the communities who rely on them. Additionally — we want to draw attention to the deleterious impacts of continued investment in fossil fuel infrastructure amidst the global ecological and climate crises. This project is bad for Alaska and Alaskans.”
Liz Jones, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute: “Extracting fossil fuels from the Alaskan Arctic to be shipped and burned overseas is outrageously backward climate policy. Letting this boondoggle go forward will only accelerate climate harms from melting permafrost to rising sea levels to stunning declines of polar bear populations. Biden officials need to reconsider and reject the devastating Alaska LNG project, or we’ll see them in court.”
Erin Colón, Senior Attorney, Earthjustice Alaska Office: “The Alaska LNG project is already a fossil from our past given the transition to clean-energy alternatives underway. The Department of Energy must do a better job of considering the enormous risks it poses to the climate and ecosystems in Alaska. Alaska, like many places across the planet, is already dealing with devastating and costly impacts from climate change. The choices we make now will determine the severity and the level of impact the climate crisis will have in the coming decades and centuries. The emissions from this project are simply too large to approve — or ignore.”
Proposed by the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation (AGDC), an Alaska state-owned corporation, the project involves constructing an 807-mile pipeline that would bisect the state from north to south, spanning a distance roughly the width of Texas. Construction would affect 35,474 acres of land, 45% of which would be permanently affected. “Stranded” gas deposits discovered decades ago in Alaska’s Arctic, which would remain in the ground without causing any climate harm if it weren’t for this project, would first be extracted and sent to gas treatment facilities operated by AGDC in the Arctic. The gas would then be transported 807 miles south to the Kenai Peninsula via the new pipeline, which would require 489 new roads to construct and maintain. AGDC would also build a liquefaction plant and marine terminal on the eastern shore of the Cook Inlet in Nikiski. The LNG would be transported to Asian markets via Cook Inlet, a sensitive water body that offers critical habitat for endangered beluga whales.
AGDC estimates that the Alaska LNG project will export 20 million tons of LNG per year, with some also tapped for in-state use. However, interest in gas will be waning by 2030, the earliest AGDC could expect to begin exporting LNG. The four countries that DOE assumes would receive gas from the Project—Japan, South Korea, China, India — all have announced plans to expand their renewable energy usage. By the year 2030, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned in its Sixth Assessment Report, nations must complete the task of slashing greenhouse gas emissions 50% below pre-industrial levels. By the time this project would be built, there may no longer be any demand for it, leaving more stranded fossil fuel infrastructure across the state.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced it would grant approval for the exports from the proposed Alaska LNG project on April 13, 2023.