(CN) — The D.C. Circuit on Wednesday upheld the Energy Department’s approval of three projects to export liquefied natural gas.
The projects were approved by the Obama administration, but Wednesday’s ruling is seen as a win for the Trump administration and its intention to increase production of fossil fuel-based energy and ratchet up exports.
In a series of lawsuits, the Sierra Club sought to overturn approvals of export terminals in Maryland, Louisiana and Texas, arguing they would increase air and water pollution and contribute to global warming.
A three-judge panel of D.C. Circuit said in a unanimous opinion that the Energy Department fulfilled its legal obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act and other laws.
The court said its decision was in line with a ruling the court handed down in August which upheld approval of a separate export terminal in Texas.
Charlie Riedl, executive director of the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas, an advocacy group that promotes natural gas exports, told the Associated Press he hopes the decision “will put an end to the unnecessary and costly challenges by Sierra Club that delay LNG projects” across the country.
“The facts are clear and the court agrees: The regulatory review process for U.S. LNG projects provides a thorough review of both operational and environmental impacts before being approved,” Riedl said.
But Nathan Matthews, a Sierra Club attorney, said expanding exports of gas produced by the drilling technique known as fracking inevitably increases air and water pollution.
Matthews said he is disappointed in the ruling, saying it failed to hold the department accountable for failing to do an analysis of the projects “that takes the costs for American communities into account.”
Those costs, he said, include increased pollution and emission of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass facility in Louisiana opened last year. Dominion Energy’s export terminal in Cove Point, Maryland, is scheduled to open before the end of the year. Cheniere’s project in Corpus Christi, Texas, is due to open in 2018.