Tell FERC: Consider Need & Climate Before Approving Fossil Fuels

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has finally taken steps to improve how it permits fracked-gas projects by considering actual energy needs and climate change impacts BUT some elected officials are trying to stop them. So FERC is asking for public comments by April 25. We need to tell FERC to stand strong!

Sign our petition today! Tell FERC that YOU support their new permitting guidelines based on rigorous assessments of energy needs and climate impacts.

Sponsored by
Takoma Park, MD

To: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
From: [Your Name]

Petition in Support of PL18-1-001, Certification of New Interstate Natural Gas Facilities, and PL21-3-001, Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Natural
Gas Infrastructure Project Reviews

We thank the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the opportunity to comment on two necessary policy statements: PL18-1-001, Certification of New Interstate Natural Gas Facilities; and PL21-3-001, Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Natural Gas Infrastructure Project Reviews. We support the immediate adoption and implementation of both policy statements, particularly in light of the worsening climate crisis. We believe they are clear, overdue, and compelled by court decisions as well as the Commission’s statutory obligations.

The Natural Gas Act (NGA) gives the Commission responsibility for siting interstate gas pipelines. Section 7 of the NGA requires a two-step inquiry. First, the Commission must determine whether the project is needed. Second, where there is a need for the project, the Commission must determine whether the project is in the public interest. This second step requires a balancing of the benefits and the harms, including environmental impacts.

Both determinations are important because a Section 7 certificate provides not only the authority to construct and operate an interstate gas pipeline, but also the authority to condemn private land via eminent domain, which has historically displaced communities of color.

Particular attention is warranted to the way FERC determines “need,” which has not been updated since 1999. Much has changed since then, so we appreciate the Commission’s efforts to modernize its policies. We recommend reconsidering the Commission’s position in which the precedent agreements filed by a project developer are treated as conclusive proof of the need for a proposed project. This approach has led the Commission to approve projects in which affiliates of the pipeline developers reserve much, if not all, of the capacity on the proposed pipeline. Based on this manufactured need, pipeline companies have spent billions, condemned private land, and caused hundreds of water quality violations -- for pipeline projects that were ultimately abandoned.

The Commission’s current method for determining need does not consider critically important factors, causing uncertainty for all parties and outcomes that do not reflect genuine market necessity. When assessing the need for a project, the Commission should consider all relevant factors, with precedent agreements just one of the factors considered. Precedent agreements among corporate affiliates require even greater scrutiny, as they are not the result of arms-length negotiations.

Environmental justice and equity concerns must also be better incorporated into the Commission’s decision-making processes. These updated policy statements make progress on that front, ensuring that the Commission assesses impacts to any environmental justice communities and necessary mitigation to avoid or lessen those impacts.

Another big change since 1999 is the scientific certainty behind climate change and its causes. The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concludes that it is “unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.” The U.N Secretary General called the report a “code red for humanity.”

The Commission’s approval of gas projects contributes to climate change and the agency can no longer ignore its role in the ongoing and worsening crisis. Courts have repeatedly faulted the Commission for its failure to adequately consider greenhouse gas emissions. The Interim Greenhouse Gas Policy Statement lays out a well-balanced approach for considering the reasonably foreseeable greenhouse gas emissions attributable to a proposed pipeline or LNG facility. It outlines a method for assessing the significance of greenhouse gas emissions and also how the Commission will consider possible mitigation of those emissions. We encourage the Commission to adopt this approach in the consideration of all gas projects going forward.

Ultimately, we know that a livable future cannot be based on fossil fuels. In the interim, we believe that the Commission’s draft greenhouse gas policy is a necessary step for the Commission to fulfill its legal obligations and fully integrate a robust consideration of climate change into its consideration of gas projects.

We urge the Commission to finalize and begin to implement both policy statements without further delay.