Environmental Advocacy Clinic
In March 2019, the Clinic celebrated with members of the community group, Comité Dialogo Ambiental, Inc. (Dialogo), as we filed a motion to dismiss our lawsuit against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), after a two-year legal battle to protect endangered species from a $380 million project to import natural gas through the island’s second largest estuary.
In July 2015, FERC authorized the siting, construction and operation of Aguirre Offshore GasPort Project. The project proponent Aguirre Offshore GasPort LLC (Aguirre), a wholly owned subsidiary of Excelerate Energy, had originally expected to begin construction in early 2016 and complete the gas port and pipeline construction by mid-2017.
However, in July 2016, Dialogo, represented by the Environmental Advocacy Clinic, challenged FERC’s authorization of the project. Most Dialogo members live and work near the approved project location, in the towns of Salinas and Guayama of southeastern Puerto Rico. We argued that FERC violated the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, by authorizing the project before fully reviewing its negative impacts on critical habitats of many endangered coral, turtle, fish and whale species.
Ten days after we filed our petition with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, FERC initiated formal consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service in mid-2016. The formal consultation concluded with FERC’s issuance of a Biological Opinion in October 2018, detailing the project’s impact on endangered and threatened species. One month later, in November 2018, Aguirre cancelled its $380 million project, citing “changed circumstances.”
FERC issued an Order Vacating Authorization for the natural gas project January 28, 2019, noting that “no construction has been undertaken and that no facilities are in service.”
Today, Dialogo members celebrate the end of their legal battle and welcome opportunities for cleaner energy options for Puerto Rico.
“The Aguirre Offshore Gasport would have been very expensive and would have tied Puerto Rico to fossil fuel combustion, likely fracked gas, for the indefinite future,” said Ruth Santiago, Attorney for Dialogo. “Instead, we could be transforming Puerto Rico’s grid to integrate rooftop solar communities and other sustainable alternatives.”
“The world has changed,” said Pat Parenteau, Senior Counsel at the Environmental Advocacy Clinic. “There are now much better options for cleaner, more affordable and more reliable sources of energy to power Puerto Rico's recovery than the outmoded technologies of the past.”