Don Santa, president and CEO of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, today expressed disappointment with the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit’s August 22 decision in Sierra Club v. FERC to vacate the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s approval of the construction and operation of three new interstate natural gas pipelines. In a 2-1 decision, the court concluded that FERC’s environmental impact statement did not contain adequate information regarding the indirect greenhouse gas emissions that would result from combustion at downstream power plants. According to the majority, FERC “should have either given a quantitative estimate of the downstream greenhouse gas emissions . . . or explained more specifically why it could not have done so.” However, the court “[did] not hold that quantification of greenhouse-gas emissions is required every time those emissions are an indirect effect of an agency action [because] in some cases quantification may not be feasible.” Thus, the National Environmental Policy Act must be applied on a case-specific basis.
“While INGAA disagrees with the majority’s conclusion that downstream power plant greenhouse gas emissions are an indirect effect of authorizing the project, we recognize that FERC has the opportunity to seek additional review of this decision. Judge Brown issued a strong and well-reasoned dissent on the question of whether FERC's NEPA analysis of indirect impacts must include an analysis of downstream GHG emissions.”
“Sierra Club challenged several other aspects of the order. However, the court found that FERC acted properly with respect to all other aspects of FERC’s order. This includes the NEPA analysis of environmental justice impacts of the project, alternatives and safety considerations, as well as the initial rates and market need finding.”