Press Release

State AGs Urge Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to Consider Effects on Climate and Environmental Justice Communities in Pipeline Project Certification

Coalition calls for updated certification policy to include analysis of the cumulative and social costs of GHG emissions, to include a formal environmental and racial justice policy, and to account for the need to transition away from gas.

Washington, D.C. — A coalition of nine attorneys general led by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey filed comments yesterday in response to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) 2021 Notice of Inquiry, which requested information on how the Commission should revise its policy for certifying new natural gas pipeline projects.

The AGs advised FERC to craft a policy that examines the cumulative and social impacts of a project’s greenhouse gas emissions, and that does so in the context of “policies and programs that promote or mandate” the transition away from gas, including state and federal reduction targets. The coalition also called for the policy to address environmental and racial justice by considering how new projects will harm environmental justice communities, and urged the Commission to “uphold [its] commitment to protect . . . landowners from injustice and irreparable harm related to the exercise of eminent domain.”

“FERC is taking meaningful steps to truly consider the public interest in its evaluation of new natural gas pipeline projects,” said Jessica Bell, Deputy Director of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center. “Effects on environmental justice communities, increases in greenhouse gas emissions, and a critical evaluation of the need for new infrastructure must be front and center in FERC’s analysis of any new pipeline. It’s time to develop a policy that accommodates, rather than antagonizes, state clean energy and emissions reduction goals.”

“Our most vulnerable communities have been overburdened with environmental injustices for far too long and must be protected from the harms of new pipeline projects,” AG Healey said. “We are calling on FERC to further address the impacts of natural gas pipelines on our climate goals and put the needs of our environmental justice communities first in the process.”

The attorneys general of Connecticut, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington, D.C. joined AG Healey in filing yesterday’s comments.

Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford also submitted comments, stating that FERC should do a more thorough evaluation of the need for a project, and also noting that end uses for gas will evolve as states work to meet greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.

Background — In 2017, to adapt to changes in the industry since the 1999 release of FERC’s Natural Gas Policy Statement, FERC announced a reassessment of its certification process for new gas pipeline projects. In April 2018, FERC released a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) seeking public comment on how to determine whether new pipeline projects should qualify for a certificate of public convenience and necessity under the Natural Gas Act. Massachusetts Attorney General Healey led a coalition of seven attorneys general in filing comments on the 2018 NOI; the attorney general of New York also filed comments in the proceeding. In February 2021, FERC issued another NOI, seeking supplemental comments and adding environmental justice considerations to its inquiry. On April 26, 2021, a coalition of attorneys general from 22 states filed comments in opposition to using the social cost of carbon in certificate evaluations. All comments in this proceeding are available in Docket No. PL18-1 in FERC’s eLibrary.


About the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center:
The State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at NYU School of Law is a nonpartisan academic center at NYU School of Law. The Center is dedicated to working towards a healthy and safe environment, guided by inclusive and equitable principles. The Center studies and supports the work of state attorneys general (AGs) in defending, enforcing, and promoting strong laws and policies in the areas of climate, environmental justice, environmental protection, and clean energy.