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FERC Declines to Appeal Landmark GHG Case to Supreme Court

FERC will not ask the Supreme Court to review a landmark district court ruling that found the Commission failed to adequately consider the impact of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions before issuing a favorable environmental review for a trio of natural gas pipeline projects in the Southeast.

Spokeswoman Celeste Miller of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission confirmed to NGI on Thursday that the Commission "did not file for Supreme Court review" a ruling issued last August by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Sierra Club et al v. FERC, No. 16-1329.

The district court ruling had concurred  with environmental groups that FERC failed to adequately consider the impact of GHG when it issued a favorable environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Southeast Market Pipelines (SMP) project in December 2015. District court records indicated that FERC had until last Monday (July 2) to file a petition for a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court.

Last March, FERC voted 3-2 to reinstate certification for SMP, which includes the Sabal Trail, Hillabee Expansion and Florida Southeast Connection pipeline projects. Commissioner Richard Glick dissented in reinstating the certifications and Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur dissented in part.

FERC's vote followed a decision by the district court to deny a request by SMP's sponsors to stay issuance of a mandate over the projects for 90 days. But the district court granted a motion by the Commission for a 45-day stay.

Sabal Trail's joint venture partners are Enbridge Inc.'s Spectra Energy Partners LP, NextEra Energy Inc. and Duke Energy. SMP would provide about 1.1 Bcf/d to markets in Florida and the Southeast. The project calls for building 685.5 miles of pipeline and six compressor stations, as well as modifying existing compressor stations in Alabama, Florida and Georgia.

"We are glad to see FERC accept its responsibility to consider GHG emissions from burning transported gas at downstream power plants," Sierra Club staff attorney Elly Benson said Tuesday. "These dirty, dangerous, and unnecessary pipelines pose a threat to our communities and climate. They should not be proposed, much less built, at a time when clean, renewable energy sources are abundant and affordable."

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