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FERC Staff Issues Updated Guidance Manuals For NatGas Project Environmental Reporting

FERC staff has issued an update to its Guidance Manual for Environmental Report Preparation for applicants seeking project approval under the Natural Gas Act (NGA), and a second manual focused on liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects.

"We intend only to provide guidance to the industry," staff wrote in the first, 246-page manual, which was released Wednesday. "This manual does not substitute for, amend, or supersede the Commission's regulations under the Natural Gas Act of 1938 or the Commission's and Council on Environmental Quality's regulations under NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act of 1969]. It imposes no new legal obligations and grants no additional rights."

The first volume of the manual describes the information that is required or recommended for natural gas projects. One updated section offers a detailed discussion on assessing cumulative impacts as they pertain to NEPA compliance and advises applicants that their "analysis must describe cumulative impacts that would potentially result from implementation of the proposed project along with other projects within the geographic and temporal scopes identified for each resource." FERC also updated the manual to include new language on assessing a project's likely greenhouse gas emissions and its impacts on climate change.

The second, 224-page manual specifically addresses additional information required or recommended for LNG projects. Its purpose "is to facilitate our review and to assist applicants by identifying the specific information and level of detail and formatting recommended for Resource Report 11 and Resource Report 13 submitted in applications for LNG projects," FERC said.

Drafts of the updated manuals were issued in late 2015. During asubsequent comment period, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said FERC should require applicants seeking approval under the NGA to provide more information on projects' indirect impacts, including potential increases in gas production and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. EPA recommended that the manual "request applicants provide information regarding the potential for increased natural gas production and the potential for environmental impacts associated with the potential increase."

That request is not included in the final manual. FERC has generally held that evaluating a particular project's impacts on future gas production falls outside its responsibilities under NEPA. In a court filing last year defending its approval of the Dominion Cove Point LNG Liquefaction Project,FERC wrote that it is not required "to consider all potential impacts no matter how attenuated or speculative," adding that "future natural gas development production activities...are not a causally related effect of the construction and operation of this particular liquefaction facility."

The Natural Gas Supply Association and the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas had urged FERC not to expand its environmental reporting requirements for project applicants as it updated its guidelines.

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