EPA denies Cheniere Energy request for LNG pollution waiver

LNG tanker Source: Cheniere LNG

The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday denied a request by Cheniere Energy, a leading U.S. producer of liquefied natural gas, to exempt two Gulf Coast plants from a federal air pollution rule.

An EPA spokesman says the agency on Tuesday denied Cheniere's request to waive a rule that limits emissions of cancer-causing formaldehyde released by gas-fired turbines. Dozens of turbine operators faced a Monday deadline to comply with the formaldehyde rule, which is being reinstated after an 18-year stay.

“Controlling emissions of formaldehyde is important to protect public health. Though EPA is denying Cheniere's request for a special subcategory to comply with the turbines rule, the agency will continue to work with them and with other companies as needed to assure they meet Clean Air Act obligations,'' EPA spokesman Tim Carroll said in an e-mail Tuesday.

Cheniere, the largest LNG exporter in the U.S., had warned that new requirements on LNG plants in Texas and Louisiana could disrupt gas supplies to Europe, which has struggled with surging energy prices following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

In a statement Tuesday, Cheniere said it strongly disagrees with EPA's decision but will work with state and federal regulators to “develop solutions that ensure compliance'' with the hazardous-pollution rule.

“Our conviction remains that these emissions do not pose a risk to public health, our workforce or the environment,'' company spokesman Eben Burnham-Snyder said in an email. “Although this decision may result in unwarranted expenditures, we believe that the steps needed to come into full compliance will not result in a material financial or operational impact. and that we will be able to continue to reliably supply LNG to customers and countries around the world.''

Environmental activists said Cheniere was using the global gas shortage – and spiking prices in Europe – to try to avoid meeting EPA rules that many consider lax.

“Because it's costly, Cheniere is asking for exemptions to EPA rules so they can continue to release cancer-causing pollutants into our communities – the same poor neighborhoods President (Joe) Biden has vowed to protect,'' said James Hiatt of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, an activist group that has worked with communities near oil refineries, chemical plants and other manufacturers to fight pollution.

Petrochemical plants, pipeline operators and other manufacturers will have to prove they've complied with EPA limits on formaldehyde under the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants, a 2004 rule that is being reinstated after an 18-year stay.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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