A US appeals court has upheld federal approval of a proposed deepwater oil-export facility offshore the Texas Gulf Coast after activist groups requested environmental approvals be reviewed.

Environmental groups including major US non-profit the Sierra Club had claimed the environmental assessment for the Enterprise Products Partners project failed to fully study the potential dangers of oil spills into the ocean and emissions risks.

However, Judge Dana Douglas wrote on behalf of a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals three-judge panel that the US Maritime Administration “adequately considered the environmental consequences of the facility before approving its deepwater port license.”

The maritime agency “reasonably concluded” that excess crude oil in the US would be exported through means other than through the proposed port to try to negate risks, she wrote.

Sierra Club called the approval “unsound” in a response statement to the ruling from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The group said that if built, the massive export facility will emit massive quantities of air pollutants and exacerbate the region’s already impaired air quality. It will also release carbon emissions equivalent to operating nearly 90 new coal-fired power plants, the group said.

The project is due to export up to two million barrels of crude oil per day, a figure that would make it the largest offshore oil export terminal in the US. It could also increase oil export levels by more than 50% and lock in decades of fossil fuel dependence even as international calls for a fossil fuel phase-out intensify, Sierra Club said.

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The sheer size of the facility poses a “substantial risk” of oil spills that would harm coastal communities and marine wildlife including critically endangered species, the group added.

The appeal was first brought before the Fifth Circuit in January last year, but groups have been campaigning against approval for the oil facility for more than four years.

Sierra Club senior attorney Devorah Ancel said: “Today’s decision out of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals represents a significant loss for frontline communities who for decades have endured pervasive, health-compromising pollution from the fossil fuel industry.

“We urge the Biden Administration that it is more important than ever to make good on its promises to combat climate change and address environmental justice in the Gulf South.”

Judge Douglas said in her decision: “We hold that the agency took a hard look at the environmental consequences of the Port, offered enough detail for the public to understand and consider the pertinent environmental influences involved,” calling the agency’s decision “informed”.