Environmental groups petition against natural gas exports

The Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace filed a legal petition with the U.S. Department of Commerce seeking an immediate ban on natural gas exports from the United States, which have seen a dramatic surge on the heels of a fracking boom around the country.

The U.S. Energy and Policy Conservation Act was passed by Congress in 1975 to conserve domestic energy supplies, specifically natural gas and crude oil, by prohibiting the export of both unless specifically covered by an allowable exemption. Although the Department of Commerce has instituted such a ban on crude oil, it has failed to address natural gas exports despite an exponential increase in such exports over the past decade, said Center for Biological Diversity in its statement.

Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity and primary author of the petition said, “Exporting natural gas worsens global warming, harms local communities, raises domestic energy prices and benefits only multinational fossil fuel corporations. If the Obama administration’s really serious about addressing the climate crisis, it has to rein in the gluttonous natural gas industry.”

Most natural gas exports from the United States are in the form of liquefied natural gas, which is usually easier to transport but as groups claim entails its own hazards and requires significant energy use. Since the late 1990s, natural gas exports have increased by roughly 1,000 percent, from 163,415 million cubic feet in 1999 to the most recent high of 1,618,828 million cubic feet in 2012. Almost all of this natural gas has been extracted utilizing new hydraulic fracturing technologies that are causing environmental and public health problems throughout the country.

Ben Schreiber, climate and energy program director at Friends of the Earth stressed that the Obama administration needs to comply with the law and not export a fuel that has higher carbon emissions than coal.

Snape added that if the Department of Commerce does not expeditiously move to end these natural gas exports, the groups will take court action to make sure this law is enforced.