A divided FERC rejected requests from two environmental groups for a rehearing over its decision to certify Millennium Pipeline Co. LLC's Eastern System Upgrade (ESU) project on Thursday, with Commissioner Richard Glick dissenting in part, arguing that it should have considered the project's contribution to climate change.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission found that four of the eight objections posed by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network were "a verbatim copy" of comments the group filed over the environmental assessment prepared for the project, which FERC issued in March 2017 [CP16-486]. The Commission also dismissed a request for a rehearing filed by Pramilla Malick on behalf of the environmental group Protect Orange County. FERC said Malick's one-page request lacked a statement of issues or supporting precedent.
"[We] believe it is a strategy by FERC to put people in this legal limbo so that the pipeline project can advance through eminent domain [and] can advance through construction to the point where even when successful no judge would require the project to be pulled out of the ground," Delaware Riverkeeper Maya van Rossum said in a Facebook post on Friday.
ESU would include building about eight miles of 30- and 36-inch diameter pipeline looping in Orange County, NY, and a new compressor station with 22,400 hp in Sullivan County, NY, to add 223,000 Dth/d of firm transportation service to local distribution companies and municipalities. The project is currently under construction and is expected in service this fall.
In his dissent, Glick, a Democrat, said he believed FERC "is required to fully disclose and consider the project's contribution to climate change, including greenhouse gas [GHG] emissions from producing and consuming the natural gas that the project is designed to transport." He added that the Commission was using a "needlessly narrow definition of indirect effects" on climate change, and had abandoned the controversial "social cost of carbon" metric often used during the Obama years.
"The Commission is incorrect insofar as it concludes that there is no 'standard methodology to determine how a project's contribution to GHG emissions would meaningfully translate into physical effects on the environment for the purpose of evaluating the project's impacts on climate change," Glick wrote. "That is precisely what the social cost of carbon provides."
Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur concurred in part and dissented in part over FERC's decision to reject a rehearing over ESU, and said she would issue "a separate statement...at a later date." Both LaFleur and Glick dissented in whole or in part over several pipeline certification orders issued Thursday -- a theme that has been repeated several times in recent weeks.
The Trump administration, Republican lawmakers and energy industry allies have been critical of the Obama administration's use of the methodology in crafting regulation.