FERC Incorporates Environmental Justice, Climate Change Considerations in its Policies

On Feb. 17, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued two sweeping policy statements that provide guidance on how he commissioners will consider future natural gas projects.

Revised Certificate Policy Statement (PL 18-1-000)

FERC revised its 1999 pipeline certificate policy statement by broadening the scope of factors it will consider in deciding whether to approve a pipeline project under the Natural Gas Act (NGA), including potential impacts on environmental justice communities, landowners, and the environment in general. According to FERC, the updates clarify how the Commission will execute its public interest obligations; the Commission intends to consider all impacts of a proposed project, including economic and environmental impacts.

Interim Greenhouse Gas Policy Statement (PL 21-3-000) ()

FERC issued an interim policy statement gauging the impacts of a gas project’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Under the interim policy statement, the Commission describes how it will assess a project’s impact on climate change in its reviews under the NGA and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Projects with emissions above 100,000 metric tons per year of GHG emissions will require Environmental Impact Statements (EIS).  The Commission is seeking comment on this interim policy statement, including how it assesses a project’s contribution to climate change.  The interim policy statement is in effect, but the guidance may be revised based on comments received. 

These policies provide guidance on how the commissioners will consider future natural gas projects. The policies seemingly reflect a political chasm at FERC:  The three FERC Democrat commissioners (Richard Glick, Allison Clements, Willie Phillips) approved the policy statements, while the two Republican commissioners (James Danly, Mark Christie) opposed the policy statements.  The commissioners have different views on how to interpret the scope of the NGA and NEPA, including fostering U.S. gas development and what is in the public interest.

If these policy statements may impact your natural gas projects or energy operations, or you have comments regarding the incorporation of environmental justice or climate change considerations, you may want to provide public comment.

FERC is taking public comments on the interim policy statement until April 4. Comments must refer to Docket No. PL21-3-000 and include the commenter’s name, the organization they represent, if applicable, and their address.  The commission encourages comments to be filed electronically via the eFiling link on the commission’s web site.

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