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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Appeals ruling: Federal regulator should have reviewed New Fortress LNG terminal before construction

The D.C. appeals court affirmed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s earlier ruling of jurisdiction over New Fortress Energy’s claim that the San Juan liquefied natural gas terminal it constructed is beyond the regulator’s authority.

By The Star Staff

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has ruled that the liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal New Fortress Energy allegedly constructed without permits in San Juan should have first been reviewed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

The D.C. appeals court affirmed FERC’s earlier ruling of jurisdiction over the terminal and dismissed New Fortress’ claim that the San Juan LNG terminal it constructed is beyond FERC’s authority. The court also acknowledged the friend of the court brief that Earthjustice filed in the case on behalf of local clients and partners, according to a statement Thursday.

New Fortress must now comply with a FERC order requiring it to submit an after-the-fact application to fully evaluate and obtain a permit for the terminal. That application process will finally allow the neighboring communities and the Puerto Rican public a meaningful opportunity to challenge the lack of safety and environmental considerations at the site. They have been demanding a review of the risks, including the risk of catastrophic gas explosions and long-term health impacts from chronic exposure to increased toxic air pollution, since New Fortress illegally began construction of the terminal in 2019.

“This decision is a relief in the long and arduous process that this has been. It will help prevent future companies like New Fortress Energy from operating without any oversight and permits, as has been the case until now,” said Sary N. Rosario Ferreira, a local pastor and member of the Faith Committee of El Puente Enlace Latino de Acción Climática. “This motivates us to continue demanding ecojustice for our communities. We are thankful for the wise and thoughtful decision that the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has reached. We feel that justice has been served.”

“This is such an important decision because the communities surrounding the LNG terminal finally have a victory after so many years of fighting to be heard,” said Myrna Conty, a local community leader with Amigos del Río Guaynabo. “Puerto Rico can’t keep allowing companies like New Fortress Energy to operate without permits designed to keep people and the environment safe and healthy. New Fortress should immediately shut down its illegal, opportunistic operation.”

“By 2025, 40% of Puerto Rico’s energy should be coming from renewable sources, and we’re nowhere close,” Conty added. “But we know that distributed rooftop solar and storage is a viable solution that is available now and can prevent the disastrous blackouts we saw after Hurricane Maria from happening again. Our elected officials must stop dragging their feet and act immediately to transition to rooftop solar and storage.”

Earthjustice attorney Raghu Murthy said: “We are vindicated by the D.C. Circuit’s order rejecting New Fortress’ continued attempts to sideline those most endangered by its operations by protecting the rights of our clients and the communities they represent.”

“We will continue to demand a rigorous environmental impact statement and public safety review, consistent with the National Environmental Policy Act, to hold New Fortress accountable for the public safety, environmental, and climate threats its gas terminal presents,” the lawyer added.

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