This morning Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released their Environmental Assessment (EA) of Kinder Morgan’s proposed liquefied natural gas export facility on Elba Island. It’s no surprise that the EA recommends approval of the project, determining that it “would not constitute a major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.” After all, the commission is better known as a rubber-stamping machine than a regulatory body. What is surprising: the finding of no significant impact is contingent on mitigation measures. And there are a lot of them. Ninety to be exact.
What does this mean? Basically, because the project would have lots of significant impacts, there are lots of mitigation measures.
Will this strengthen the argument that the proposed project needs an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)? It certainly should. The Council on Environmental Quality, which is part of the National Environmental Policy Act, says, “As a general rule, the regulations contemplate that agencies should use a broad approach in defining significance and should not rely on the possibility of mitigation as an excuse to avoid the EIS requirement” (40).