Any updates to FERC’s more than 20-year-old policy statement on natural gas pipeline reviews should not apply to projects that have already submitted applications to the agency, according to a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators.
In a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Thursday, the lawmakers called on the agency “to take action without further delay” on the natural gas infrastructure projects currently pending.
The letter was signed by 25 senators, a list comprising mostly Republicans along with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Jon Tester (D-MT).
FERC in February initiated a notice of inquiry process to revisit its 1999 policy statement guiding its evaluation of the interstate natural gas infrastructure projects under its purview.
“Delaying and moving the regulatory goalposts on projects filed in good faith is contrary to the otherwise equitable application of the Policy Statement that all stakeholders expect,” the lawmakers wrote. “At a minimum, these projects should not be subject to newly contemplated considerations that fall outside the scope of the current Policy Statement or go beyond the Commission’s statutory authority.”
While not explicitly mentioned in the senators’ letter, a debate over how to account for the climate change impacts of natural gas infrastructure has been simmering at FERC and is sure to be a key issue as the agency revises its policy statement.
Chairman Richard Glick, a Democrat whom President Biden tapped to take over as head of the agency earlier this year, has been vocal in pushing for a thorough reckoning when it comes to the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate change impacts associated with natural gas projects.
“Going forward, we are committed to treating greenhouse gas emissions and their contribution to climate change the same as all other environmental impacts we consider,” Glick said following a March certificate decision approving a Northern Natural Gas Co. request to build 87.3 miles of replacement line.
A potentially tectonic policy shift attached to an otherwise small project, that order saw the agency adopt a new approach to tabulating GHG emissions, drawing a sharp rebuke from Republican Commissioner James Danly.
Danly called the GHG review methodology “no standard at all, merely a black box comparison of numbers the Commission can apparently apply however it sees fit on a case-by-case basis.” He warned of “profound consequences” for the natural gas industry moving forward under the shift in policy.
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