Commissioners Cheryl LaFleur and Richard Glick, the two Democratic members of the five-member FERC, dissented to natural gas pipeline certificates on their agenda Thursday, as they have several times in recent weeks, and shed some light on their reasoning in those cases.
"As I explained recently in my concurrence in Broad Run, I'm working to try to make a case-by-case public interest determination in each pipeline application or petition for hearing, based on the facts in the record and the governing law as I understand it," LaFleur said during the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's monthly open meeting.
"Of course that's what we do in all of our cases. This has become a little more difficult for me in recent months, since the Commission's action on the Sabal Trail remand and the subsequent decision in New Market to change our practices regarding disclosure and consideration of upstream and downstream impacts...
"Although I take serious issue with the majority's views about how to conduct our environmental reviews, especially with respect to downstream impacts, in many cases I believe the pipelines at issue are needed, and on balance in the public interest.”
In these cases, she said, “my team and I have worked hard to try to find a way to approve the pipeline and express my separate reasoning in a concurrence. Ever since I've been at the Commission I've tried to negotiate in good faith with my colleagues to be able to vote for an order that the Commission issued. My view has always been that I'd rather get an order partly my way and be part of making law than write separately a document that doesn't have the force of law and is just a piece of paper."
LaFleur and Glick each dissented in whole or in part to pipeline certificates approved by FERC Thursday. The certificates Glick objected to were "very similar to a number of dissents I've already submitted regarding the Commission's refusal to take a look at the significance of the impact of greenhouse gas emissions associated with downstream and upstream emissions associated with new pipelines," he said.
Three months ago, FERC issued a notice of inquiry (NOI) that could lead to a revision of its policies regarding the review and authorization of interstate natural gas transportation facilities under section 7 of the Natural Gas Act. The NOI was issued to examine FERC policies in light of changes in the natural gas industry and increased stakeholder interest in how the Commission reviews gas pipeline proposals since it adopted its current policy statement on pipeline certification in September 1999.
The draft NOI seeks input on whether, and if so how, FERC should adjust its: methodology for determining whether there is a need for proposed projects, including consideration of precedent agreements and contracts for service as evidence of such need; consideration of the potential exercise of eminent domain and of landowner interests related to proposed projects; and evaluation of the environmental impacts of proposed projects [PL18-1]. Comments on the NOI are due Wednesday (July 25).
"I think we do have an opportunity here to maybe develop a situation where we can actually all get on board on an approach on going-forward basis," Glick said of the NOI Thursday.
The latest meeting was the last for Commissioner Robert Powelson, who previously announced that he would leave FERC in mid-August to to become president and CEO of the National Association of Water Companies.
Powelson's departure would leave FERC potentially deadlocked on pipeline and other issues, with the two Democrats on one side and two Republicans, Chairman Kevin McIntyre and Neil Chatterjee, on the other. The White House has given no hint of a possible replacement for Powelson.