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The Guardians of Democracy

Federal Court Halts $3.5B Government-Approved Pipeline Project Over Botched Climate Change Review

Clean Energy

Federal Court Halts $3.5B Government-Approved Pipeline Project Over Botched Climate Change Review

In a 2-1 ruling, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) failed to adequately analyze the greenhouse gas emissions impacts of a $3.5 billion natural gas pipeline to Florida it approved and ordered the agency to redo its environmental review of the project.

The appeals court sided with the Sierra Club and other groups Tuesday when it ordered FERC to create a new environmental impact statement for the pipeline project after it failed to properly analyze the climate impact from burning the natural gas that the project would deliver to power plants as mandated by the National Environmental Policy Act — the law governing all environmental reviews of federal decisions.

In his opinion, Judge Thomas Griffith, who was nominated to the court by President George W. Bush, wrote that the environmental impact statement for the project “should have either given a quantitative estimate of the downstream greenhouse emissions that will result from burning the natural gas that the pipelines will transport or explained more specifically why it could not have done so.”

“As we have noted, greenhouse-gas emissions are an indirect effect of authorizing this project, which FERC could reasonably foresee, and which the agency has legal authority to mitigate,” wrote Judge Judith Ann Wilson Rogers, one of President Bill Clinton’s nominees.

“Quantification would permit the agency to compare the emissions from this project to emissions from other projects, to total emissions from the state or the region, or to regional or national emissions-control goals. Without such comparisons, it is difficult to see how FERC could engage in ‘informed decision making’ with respect to the greenhouse-gas effects of this project, or how ‘informed public comment’ could be possible,” the court wrote.

The Hill adds:

The Sierra Club sued FERC following its 2016 approval of the project. The environmental group brought a series of objections to the project and its environmental review, but the court denied all of the objections except the one focused on greenhouse gas.

Judge Janice Rogers Brown, another Bush nominee, dissented from the ruling, arguing that FERC does not have the authority to take action to reduce the greenhouse gas impact of pipelines it approves, so it is not obligated to analyze some impacts.

The court’s decision overturns the project’s federal approval and returns the issue to FERC to complete the necessary greenhouse gas analysis.


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