WASHINGTON, March 14 (Reuters) - Freeport LNG Development LP's proposed liquefied natural gas export terminal will not cause significant environmental harm, a draft federal review concluded on Friday, paving the way for possible approval for the project this year.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's preliminary environmental analysis found that the terminal on Quintana Island, Texas, would cause mostly "temporary and short-term" impacts since the project would be an expansion of an import terminal and the company planned to take steps to mitigate effects of construction.
Some lawmakers, including the speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, have called for quicker processing of more than two dozen projects seeking federal approval to build terminals to ship U.S. gas abroad, in hopes of undermining Russian influence on the natural gas market. Russia's recent invasion of the Crimea region in Ukraine has led to concerns about Ukrainian and European dependence on Russia for the energy source.
U.S. LNG exports were expected to begin trickling next year and would not flow extensively until years later.
Companies need approval from both the Energy Department, which determines whether the proposed exports would be in the public interest, and FERC, which assesses safety and environmental effects of the projects' construction and operation.
Freeport is one of four companies that received permission from the Energy Department but were waiting for a decision from FERC.
The commission had said it expected to issue a final environmental review of the Freeport project by June 16. Based on internal guidelines, a final decision was expected in September.
FERC's draft environmental review found the only significant impacts from the project would be traffic, noise, dust and air pollution during construction, which would mostly affect residents near the terminal.
Those impacts would be unavoidable, FERC determined. The company's proposal would minimize soil and wetlands pollution and not hurt any threatened or endangered species, the review said.
The commission will accept comments on the environmental review through May 5.
FERC this week also laid out a schedule for its review of Dominion Resources Inc's proposed Cove Point export terminal in Maryland. The final environmental assessment was due by May 15, and analysts predicted the commission could issue a final decision as early as June.
Cheniere Energy Inc's Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana is the only project that has received export approval from both agencies so far.