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Frontline Louisiana activists are warning that the company behind the proposed “carbon bomb” Calcasieu Pass 2, or CP2, liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal already has a history of environmental violations.
Venture Global’s Calcasieu Pass terminal, which began operations in January 2022, racked up more than 2,000 deviations from its air permit during its first year alone.
Now, the Arlington-based company is seeking approval for CP2, which it says will be “technologically identical” to its first facility, Louisiana Bucket Brigade campaign coordinator Shreyas Vasudevan said during a Tuesday press briefing.
“Why are we moving forward with the permitting for CP2 when this facility in just one year has such an egregious history?” Vasudevan asked.
Too much flare
John C. Allaire, a retired environmental engineer for both BP and Amaco, lives about 1,600 meters across the river from Venture Global’s Calcasieu Pass in Lousiana’s Cameron Parish. For the past 22 months, he has kept a record of every time he has seen a gas flare from the facility.
“They’ve got about a 30-to-40 foot flame on their flare this morning,” Allaire told reporters Tuesday. “They were flaring yesterday.”
The facility got off to an inauspicious start when, on Jan. 18, 2022, the day before it began exporting LNG, it released 180,099 pounds of gas in an accident it later determined “could have been prevented” if it had followed established procedures, according to a 2022 Louisiana Bucket Brigade report.
Allaire then observed flaring on 91 of the facility’s first 131 days in operation, or 68% of its first five months.
Flaring is an emergency means of burning off waste gas. Calcasieu Pass’ environmental impact statement, prepared by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), said that the facility “would avoid flaring at night, during low visibility conditions, and during peak migration seasons.”
Yet Allaire observed flares both at night and during the peak migration season for non-tropical birds.
In its semiannual monitoring report, submitted to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) on March 30, Venture Global admitted that Calcasieu Pass had exceeded its permitted amount of emissions more than 2,000 times in 2022.
“In total, out of 343 days of operation last year the facility was in violation of their permit for 286 days, meaning they were only in compliance for 17% of their time in operation last year,” Allaire wrote in his analysis of the report.
In response to the report, LDEQ issued a compliance order, but Venture Global responded by insisting it had “solved all of these issues and that because of that, this compliance order is unnecessary,” Vasudevan said.
Yet continued monitoring by Allaire belies that claim. He told reporters he has continued to observe flaring on many more days than Venture Global admitted to accidents in its most recent Sept. 30 report.
“There’s a huge discrepancy between what they’ve also reported for this year and what’s been seen at the facility,” Vasudevan said.
This follows the company’s pre-established reporting pattern. An initial semiannual monitoring report for the first half of 2022 claimed only 32 violations, while a revised report published later disclosed more than 70 during the same time period.
Allaire continues to hear alarms sound and smoke and particulate matter pollution rise out of the facility’s flares and smokestacks.
“It’s supposed to be a very clean type set up, but we’re not seeing it here down where I live,” Allaire said.
Muddying the waters
Venture Global’s LNG exporting has polluted the water as well as the air. Around 22 months ago, the company pumped the silt and mud from its marine berth for LNG tankers out into the Gulf of Mexico 400 yards from Allaire’s beachfront.
The dredge material transformed what “used to be a nice sand and shell beach,” Allaire said.
“You walk into the water, and as you get ankle deep, you sink, and as you get knee deep, you sink. And as you get waist deep, you’re in this black viscous sludge that they pumped out,” Allaire said.
Allaire isn’t the only Gulf resident who has been impacted by the release of dredging material.
“That has been a consistent problem that’s been experienced in the town of Cameron,” Vasudevan said. “And so fishermen have been complaining of marshes being filled with mud.”
In this regard, say advocates, Venture Global has not been honest with regulators. It told FERC that it was listening to the concerns of fishers through a Community Advisory Group, even as it acknowledged that no shrimpers or commercial fishers were actual members.
It did say that police jurors and other local government officials were involved, but when the Louisiana Bucket Brigade filed a public records request with the Cameron Parish Police Jury, the jury responded that they had not participated in Venture Global’s group.
“It is clear that fishermen have not been able to have adequate community input,” Vasudevan said, “and the permitting for CP2 must be halted until their concerns are completely understood and addressed.”
‘Bigger and badder’
While Venture Global is pumping pollutants into Louisiana’s air and water, it’s not actually pumping much money into the economy beyond employing a few workers, Allaire said.
That’s because the company, which sold around $18.2 billion worth of LNG cargo since March of 2022, according to Reuters, has been granted a 10-year industrial tax exemption from the Louisiana Board of Commerce and Industry.
For 2022, that means the company escaped paying $184.6 billion that would have otherwise helped fund schools, pave roads and supply first responders, Allaire told reporters.
“There’s all kinds of downside with the flaring, the increased air pollution, the noise pollution, the light pollution. And it’s just crazy that they won’t contribute anything to the local economy here,” Allaire said.
That trade-off is partly why advocates are wary of CP2, what Vasudevan called Venture Global’s “bigger and badder” proposed site which would be located across the Calcasieu River from the original. FERC could approve the new facility by the end of 2023.
“The last thing that people in these communities need is another project of this magnitude,” McKibben said during the briefing.
And its impact would extend far beyond southwest Louisiana. During its lifetime, critics warn, CP2 would lead to 20 times the greenhouse gas emissions that would be released over the lifetime of the controversial Willow oil drilling project in Alaska.
“That we would even consider doing that, anything like that in 2023, which the scientists have now told us is the hottest year we’ve experienced on this planet in 125,000 years, that’s obscene and dangerous,” McKibben said.
Originally published by Common Dreams.
Olivia Rosane is a staff writer for Common Dreams.