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November 29, 2012

New Report: Look Before the LNG Leap

LNG stock photo

The natural gas fracking boom is causing major environmental challenges across the country – including poisoned water in Pennsylvania, polluted air in Wyoming, earthquakes in Ohio, and profound changes to forests and farming landscapes all across the country.  Now a speculative rush to export as much as half of all gas produced in this country overseas –- an amount greater than the entire domestic power industry burns annually -- could dangerously intensify that boom, even though we do not have the regulatory structure in place to protect ourselves from the harm.

It’s time to take a hard look at the export problem before it makes fracking a whole lot worse.

Exporting major amounts of liquefied natural gas means lots of new fracking: The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s own Energy Information Agency has made that clear in a report this January.  And more fracking means more risks for Americans, especially because of all the legal loopholes the industry has secured: DOE’s own Natural Gas Subcommittee, a collection of top experts, has made that clear, too, in its own reports.  So why, despite the advice of its own experts, is DOE refusing even to consider the impacts of all that fracking before it greenlights exports?

Today, we released a report highlighting these significant risks of exporting LNG and calling on DOE to come clean with the public about the major environmental impacts involved. It’s in the best interest of the public and the planet to take a step back and re-evaluate the environmental and health effects of expanding gas exports.


The report is called “Look Before the LNG Leap,” and it’s just what it sounds like: a red flag to the DOE that rubber-stamping approval of proposed LNG export facilities would be a serious mistake.  We aren’t alone in sounding the alarm.  The Sierra Club has been joined by citizens’ groups from across the country in demanding a serious discussion of the wisdom of fracking for export. The EPA has also warned that the public deserves full disclosure, but DOE has not been listening.

We hope this report will change that.  It shows that DOE’s main excuse for refusing to link fracking to export – that it is not sure exactly where that fracking will occur – is just wrong:  As it turns out, DOE’s own national energy model can do just that.  DOE has no excuse to avoid performing a thorough environmental impact statement to disclose the real effects of exporting natural gas.

That review needs to happen now for many reasons.  Among them is the fact that the U.S. is on the verge of entering a highly controversial trade pact, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, with major gas importers that could make it impossible for anyone to restrain natural gas exports.  Before we start making big export commitments, we need all the facts.

The bottom line is that DOE should take a careful look at the dangerous effects of increased fracking on Americans’ water, air, land and health.  That’s what the law requires, and it’s what common sense demands.

You can also take action by telling President Obama that DOE must look at the effects of fracking on our communities before making a decision on LNG export facilities.

--Craig Segall, Staff Attorney, Sierra Club Environmental Law Program

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