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Court Green Lights|Gas Plant Expansion

(CN) - The D.C. Circuit approved a plan to expand a natural gas plant near Maryland's Chesapeake Bay after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission addressed a local distributor's safety concerns.

FERC first approved the expansion of Dominion Cove Point four years ago. The plant imports liquefied natural gas and distributes it in gaseous form.

But Washington Gas Light Co. sued to stop the project, fearing that higher volumes of "regasified" liquefied natural gas passing through its piping system could cause leaks.

The D.C. Circuit in 2008 directed FERC to "more fully address whether the expansion can go forward without causing unsafe leakage."

The commission has now done so to the court's satisfaction, the three-judge panel ruled.

By limiting the amount of gas that could be delivered after the expansion to the amounts delivered before the project, FERC "ensured that the expansion could not be said to increase the risk of unsafe natural gas leakage," Judge Brett Kavanaugh wrote.

"After all, the same amount of regasified liquefied natural gas could have been delivered even if the expansion had never occurred," the judge added.

The commission authorized the post-expansion delivery of 530,000 Dekatherms per day of regasified liquefied natural gas, the same amount allowed in the facility's pre-expansion contract.

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