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Polis, Hinchey Urge Environmental Assessment of Natural Gas Exports

Letter to DOE Requests EIS on Plan to Export Liquid Natural Gas

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Washington, Sep 26, 2012 | comments

With experts stating that increased liquid natural gas (LNG) exports will expand the use of hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) in gas drilling, Congressman Jared Polis (CO-02) and Congressman Maurice Hinchey (NY-22) wrote to U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu today urging the completion of an Environmental Impact Statement before approving LNG exports. Polis and Hinchey’s letter was signed by 18 of their colleagues.

According to the Energy Information Administration, 63 percent of the export demand for LNG would be met by increased production, 85 percent of which involves production from unconventional techniques, such as fracking. Fracking in densely populated areas would further threaten families and homes with cancer-causing pollution and noise.

Signers include: Polis, Hinchey, Raúl Grijalva (AZ), Bob Filner (CA), Charles Rangel (NY), John Olver (MA), Barbara Lee (CA), Gerald Connolly (VA), Pete Stark (CA), José Serrano (NY), Paul Tonko (NY), Betty McCollum (MN), Chellie Pingree (ME), Sam Farr (CA), Michael Honda (CA), Janice Schakowsky (IL), Carolyn Maloney (NY), Dennis Kucinich (OH), Steven Rothman (NJ), and Steve Cohen (TN).

The text of the letter follows.

Dear Secretary Chu:

As the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy (DOE/FE) considers proposals to export liquefied natural gas (LNG), we urge the DOE/FE to consider the potential environmental impacts of increased U.S. gas production pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Specifically, we request that the DOE/FE prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to determine how LNG exports may potentially increase environmental risks in communities where natural gas is extracted.

We are concerned that exporting more LNG would lead to greater hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” activity thus threatening the health of local residents and jobs. For instance, increased natural gas production in communities across the nation could negatively impact farmers, residents, and local property values. The potential benefits from increased trade should be weighed against the increased health costs of additional fracking.

Under NEPA, “all agencies of the Federal Government” must prepare an EIS for every “major Federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.” Even though exporting nearly one-third of our domestic gas production certainly constitutes a major Federal action, the DOE has not yet conducted an EIS. A comprehensive EIS is essential to understanding the upstream public health and environmental effects resulting from increased domestic fracking. Further, an EIS ensures that decision-makers are fully analyzing the environmental risks posed by exporting LNG.

Before issuing any additional permits for the construction of LNG export facilities, we respectfully request that the DOE/FE complete a comprehensive EIS.  Such a review would inform your agency's decision and address the environmental and health impacts in our communities that may result from the opportunity to increase LNG exports.

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