Wednesday, April 14, 2021

FERC decision to consider proposed pipelines' greenhouse-gas emissions could have major infrastructure implications

"The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's decision to assess a proposed natural gas pipeline's contribution to climate change could have major implications for gas infrastructure, analysts say, including nearly unheard-of project rejections," Arianna Skibell reports for Energy & Environment News. "For the first time ever, FERC last month weighed greenhouse gas emissions related to a Northern Natural Gas Co. pipeline replacement project running 87 miles from northeast Nebraska to Sioux Falls, S.D. The independent agency ultimately approved the project. . . . The landmark order signals that the five-member commission under Democratic Chairman Richard Glick could begin assessing emissions for all projects in its purview, from interstate gas pipelines to liquefied natural gas terminals. Glick has long called for carrying out such reviews."

The decision could lead to FERC approving fewer pipelines. "Since adopting its natural gas pipeline policy about 20 years ago, FERC has approved roughly 475 pipelines and rejected two," Skibell reports. "The commission weighs a host of environmental factors when permitting natural gas infrastructure under [the National Environmental Policy Act], but commissioners have long argued, largely along partisan lines, about whether and how to weigh greenhouse gas emissions."

This week FERC is expected to consider Enbridge Pipeline's request to intervene in the Northern Natural case; if the request is approved, the company could sue to challenge the decision to account for pipeline greenhouse-gas emissions. "Experts agree the move could lead to FERC denying certification for major natural gas projects, though not for all proposals," Skibell reports.

Jennifer Danis, a senior fellow at the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, told Skibell: "Chairman Glick has made it quite clear: It doesn't mean zero pipelines will be approved. ... If you really have data that a project would displace a high-carbon-intensive fuel source like coal, then those are data that ought to go into the commission's analysis, along with project-driven emissions."

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