WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Three environmental groups have sued the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources for exempting Venture Global LNG from needing an environmental permit to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal, the organizations said on Wednesday.
The Deep South Center for Environmental Justice (DSCEJ), Sierra Club and Healthy Gulf filed a petition last week for judicial review against the Louisiana department after the regulators decided to exempt Venture Global from obtaining a coastal use permit for development of its LNG facility in Plaquemines, 35 miles (56 km) south of New Orleans. It was filed in the 19th district Louisiana State Court.
The groups say the plant's construction will destroy nearly 400 acres (162 hectares) of wetlands that serve as a storm buffer for nearby communities. Without sufficient protections, a hurricane would release pollution into homes, businesses, farmland and coastal water, subjecting predominantly Black and indigenous communities to the risks, they said.
"Venture Global is not above the law that requires companies to minimize harm in a coastal zone," said Monique Harden, assistant director of law and public policy at DSCEJ.
Venture Global did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Venture Global LNG terminal is one of four being built in the United States. LNG backers say the gas can replace coal, a fuel that releases more greenhouse gases when burned and gives consumers an alternative to Russian gas. Opponents say LNG facilities, drilling operations and transportation can leak methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
Ivor van Heerden, a marine scientist, filed an affidavit on the case that said design flaws in the terminal's proposed storm wall pose substantial risks of a levee failure and that the project poses a risk of contaminants escaping from the facility during a major hurricane.
The DNR "believes our staff acted in accordance with the applicable state law and regulatory guidance," said spokesperson Patrick Courreges.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Josie Kao)