US Environmentalists Welcome Decision on Gas Pipeline Project

US Environmentalists Welcome Decision on Gas Pipeline Project”

Striking down the government's approval of a natural gas pipeline that would run from Alabama to Florida, the D.C. Circuit found Tuesday that a federal environmental review gave short shrift to the project's impact on greenhouse gas emissions. The Project comprises three natural gas pipelines now under construction in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida that, once built, will transport over 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day over 500 miles to feed new and existing natural gas-fired electric plants in Florida and to serve the growing natural gas demand of Florida utility customers. The Southeast Market Pipelines Project consists of three pipelines, the largest of which is the Sabal Trail pipeline in Florida.

"We conclude that the EIS for the Southeast Market Pipelines Project should have either given a quantitative estimate of the downstream greenhouse emissions that will result from burning the natural gas that the pipelines will transport or explained more specifically why it could not have done so", Judges Judith Rogers and Thomas Griffith wrote. 2016). The court distinguished Sierra Club from these other proceedings, each of which concerned the export of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from terminals approved by FERC, on grounds that FERC had no statutory authority to consider the indirect effects of LNG exports under the authority delegated to it.

Some great news about the Sabal Trail Pipeline.

"This decision further highlights the fact that FERC must go back and revise its draft EIS of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline", said Southern Environmental Law Center Senior Attorney, Greg Buppert.

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A representative for the commission did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the ruling. Sabal Trail Transmission announced in July that the system had been placed into commercial operation. It is also planned to deliver gas to a Duke plant under construction in Crystal River. Fellow Bush appointee U.S. Circuit Judge Janice Rogers Brown dissented in part, saying the commission did not have to consider the new greenhouse gas emissions from Florida power plants in its estimates because agencies do not have to consider effects they are "powerless to prevent" when putting together environmental assessments. (President Donald Trump has subsequently announced that the United States would withdraw from the landmark 2015 agreement to reduce emissions in an effort to prevent 2°C global warming and the catastrophic effects that will come with it.) Natural gas is 80 percent methane, a potent greenhouse gas, which traps heat 86 times more effectively than Carbon dioxide over a 20-year span. Advocates for natural gas tout the fact that it burns almost twice as cleanly as coal, but leakage from drilling and transportation operations have been estimated to more than compensate for its cleaner combustion.

FERC argued that it is impossible to know exactly what quantity of greenhouse gases will be emitted as a result of the project's approval, but the court noted that FERC has already estimated that the pipelines will deliver 1.1 billion cu ft per day. Utilities have relied primarily on two pipelines to transport gas into the state.

"In other words, when an agency thinks the good consequences of a project will outweigh the bad, the agency still needs to discuss both the good and the bad", Griffith wrote. And the pipeline itself would eventually leak methane as well.

The Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for the project, which authorized its construction, has been vacated and remanded to FERC while the agency reviews the EIS in light of the decision. "In this respect, then, the EIS fails to fulfill its primary goal".

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