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U. S. Conservationists Launch Legal Challenge to $3 Billion Government Subsidy of Natural Gas Plant in Papua New Guinea

Harm to Endangered Sea Turtles, Whales and Climate Never Reviewed
By Export Import Bank or ExxonMobil

SAN FRANCISCO— Today Turtle Island Restoration Network, Center for Biological Diversity and Pacific Environment notified the U.S. Export Import Bank of their intent to sue the government agency for providing $3 billion in financing to ExxonMobil and partners for a liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Papua New Guinea without analyzing the project’s environmental impacts as required by the U. S. Endangered Species Act (ESA). See the notice.

The LNG project will be the largest industrial development in Papua New Guinea producing natural gas for overseas markets. The development will cut through rainforest, mangrove, and coral-reef habitat with harmful impacts on biodiversity, including endangered sea turtles and whales. Also, the project will produce than 3 million tons of CO2 every year in direct emissions.

Export Import Bank has 60 days to correct the violations described in today’s notice letter before the conservation groups may file suit in U. S. federal court.

“Endangered sea turtles in particular are at risk of further decline toward extinction from this massive natural gas plant in Papua New Guinea and similar projects around the world,” said Teri Shore, program director for Turtle Island Restoration Network. “Sea turtles risk losing important habitat and also being struck and killed by vessels shipping fossil fuels across the ocean.”

In related news, yesterday the U. S. government proposed endangered status for loggerhead sea turtles that feed in the waters of Papua New Guinea and nest in Australia, and whose populations have declined by 86 percent over two decades. Critically endangered leatherbacks also nest in PNG and forage in its waters. Australian flatbacks also are known to utilize PNG marine habitats. All could be impacted by the LNG plant and its operations.

Shortly after pledging to reduce fossil fuel subsidies at the G20 conference in 2009, the Obama administration approved the record-breaking LNG funding, the largest transaction in the Export-Import Bank’s 75-year history.. Today, President Obama addressed the Export Import Bank’s annual conference in Washington D. C.

“If we are going to address global warming, the United States needs to stop funding new fossil fuel projects,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Instead, taxpayer dollars are financing an immense natural-gas project with adverse impacts on wildlife and habitat.”

“Export Import Bank’s $3 billion subsidy to ExxonMobil runs afoul of climate change concerns, and will also cause damage through illegal harm to endangered wildlife,” said Doug Norlen, policy director at Pacific Environment. “This ecological damage adds to other local impacts including growing human rights concerns.”

This is the first legal challenge to funding of LNG project outside of the U.S under the ESA. It could set a precedent for other industrial projects around the world subsidized by the government to protect endangered species including endangered sea turtles. Read about threats to sea turtles in Northwest Australia from similar natural gas projects.

Turtle Island Restoration Network is an international marine conservation organization headquartered in California whose nearly 25,000 members and online activists work to protect sea turtles and marine biodiversity in the United States and around the world.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with 255,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Pacific Environment is a non-profit organization based in San Francisco that protects the living environment of the Pacific Rim by promoting grassroots activism, strengthening communities and reforming international policies. For nearly two decades, we have partnered with local communities around the Pacific Rim to protect and preserve the ecological treasures of this vital region.