Press Release

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Takes Critical Step on Natural Gas Infrastructure Reviews

FERC issues two policy statements to evaluate GHG emissions and consider adverse effects on communities in pipeline proceedings.

New York, N.Y. — The Fed­er­al Ener­gy Reg­u­la­to­ry Com­mis­sion (FERC) issued an Updat­ed Cer­tifi­cate Pol­i­cy State­ment and an Inter­im Green­house Gas (GHG) Pol­i­cy State­ment at today’s open meet­ing, mark­ing an impor­tant step towards long-await­ed updates to its process for review­ing and autho­riz­ing nat­ur­al gas pipeline projects. The Updat­ed Cer­tifi­cate Pol­i­cy State­ment sets out the rel­e­vant fac­tors for FERC to con­sid­er when an appli­ca­tion for a new nat­ur­al gas project is before it. As Com­mis­sion­er Alli­son Clements stat­ed at the meet­ing, the ques­tion of project need is a gat­ing ques­tion.” The four major inter­ests to be eval­u­at­ed are: “(1) the inter­ests of the applicant’s exist­ing cus­tomers; (2) the inter­ests of exist­ing pipelines and their cap­tive cus­tomers; (3) envi­ron­men­tal inter­ests; and (4) the inter­ests of landown­ers and sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties, includ­ing envi­ron­men­tal jus­tice com­mu­ni­ties.” The Inter­im GHG Pol­i­cy State­ment out­lines a process for quan­ti­fy­ing a pro­posed project’s GHG emis­sions and deter­min­ing if the emis­sions are significant. 

FERC adopt­ed both pol­i­cy state­ments in a 3 – 2 split along par­ty lines. The pol­i­cy state­ments apply to pend­ing and new projects. FERC is seek­ing com­ment on the Inter­im GHG Pol­i­cy State­ment through April 4. The two state­ments were not avail­able in full as of the time of this press release.

We are hope­ful that projects will be sub­ject to a tru­ly robust pub­lic inter­est deter­mi­na­tion that takes seri­ous­ly the adverse effects of projects on envi­ron­men­tal jus­tice com­mu­ni­ties and cli­mate impacts,” said Jessi­ca Bell, Deputy Direc­tor of the State Ener­gy & Envi­ron­men­tal Impact Cen­ter. FERC has had some recent court loss­es thanks to its refusal to give envi­ron­men­tal jus­tice and cli­mate impacts ade­quate atten­tion, and it will be cru­cial to watch how these poli­cies play out on a case-by-case basis.”

Back­ground — In April 2018, FERC released a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) seek­ing pub­lic com­ment on poten­tial­ly updat­ing the 1999 pol­i­cy state­ment that it uses to deter­mine whether new inter­state nat­ur­al gas pipeline projects should qual­i­fy for a cer­tifi­cate of pub­lic con­ve­nience and neces­si­ty under the Nat­ur­al Gas Act – a cru­cial step need­ed before a pipeline becomes oper­a­tional. Mass­a­chu­setts Attor­ney Gen­er­al Mau­ra Healey led a coali­tion of sev­en AGs in fil­ing com­ments on the 2018 NOI advis­ing FERC that its pol­i­cy state­ment has led to approval of nat­ur­al gas pipelines beyond what was actu­al­ly need­ed and results in defi­cient envi­ron­men­tal analy­ses, and then-New York Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bar­bara Under­wood also filed com­ments, not­ing the harms to landowners. 

In Feb­ru­ary 2021, FERC issued anoth­er NOI, seek­ing sup­ple­men­tal com­ments and adding envi­ron­men­tal jus­tice con­sid­er­a­tions to its inquiry. AG Healey led a coali­tion of nine AGs in com­ments. The AGs high­light­ed the green­house gas emis­sions reduc­tion goals in many states, which are close­ly exam­in­ing the role of gas in their states and rais­ing ques­tions about the pub­lic need for new pipelines. The AGs point­ed to FERC’s 2018 approval of a nat­ur­al gas liq­ue­fac­tion project in Rhode Island that did not look at state cli­mate goals and local envi­ron­men­tal impacts as an exam­ple; the may­or of Prov­i­dence had char­ac­ter­ized the approval as adding yet anoth­er envi­ron­men­tal bur­den to the already over­bur­dened com­mu­ni­ties of col­or in Prov­i­dence” and called the facil­i­ty an affront to our city’s cli­mate, ener­gy and racial equi­ty goals.” Neva­da Attor­ney Gen­er­al Aaron Ford also filed com­ments, empha­siz­ing that the con­struc­tion of a pipeline that is not need­ed is not in the pub­lic inter­est. A sep­a­rate coali­tion of AGs 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. PL181 in FERC’s eLi­brary.

In a relat­ed dock­et, in Novem­ber 2021, FERC held a tech­ni­cal con­fer­ence to specif­i­cal­ly gath­er infor­ma­tion on options for green­house gas mit­i­ga­tion in the con­text of Nat­ur­al Gas Act sec­tions 3 and 7 autho­riza­tions. AG Healey led a coali­tion of eight AGs in com­ments urg­ing FERC to assess the cli­mate impacts of projects and to con­sid­er the effects of the projects as well as pos­si­ble mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures on envi­ron­men­tal jus­tice com­mu­ni­ties. A sep­a­rate coali­tion of 19 states filed com­ments argu­ing that FERC lacks author­i­ty to include green­house gas mit­i­ga­tion in its cer­tifi­cate deci­sions. All com­ments in this pro­ceed­ing are avail­able in Dock­et No. PL213 in FERC’s eLi­brary.

The Center’s resource doc­u­ment­ing FERC’s recent win-loss record in court is avail­able here.

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About the State Ener­gy & Envi­ron­men­tal Impact Cen­ter:
The State Ener­gy & Envi­ron­men­tal Impact Cen­ter at the NYU School of Law is a non-par­ti­san aca­d­e­m­ic cen­ter ded­i­cat­ed to the study and sup­port of state attor­neys gen­er­al in their work defend­ing and pro­mot­ing clean ener­gy, cli­mate, envi­ron­men­tal jus­tice, and envi­ron­men­tal laws and poli­cies. For more infor­ma­tion on the work of state attor­neys gen­er­al sub­scribe to receive our twice-mon­th­­ly newslet­ter.