Pending Snowstorm; No In-Person Activities Sat, Jan. 29. Law Library will be closed. More info

8 AGs Call Upon FERC to Undertake More Rigorous Economic and Environmental Reviews Before Green Lighting New Gas Pipelines

Attorneys general say FERC puts industry priorities over regional needs and environmental impacts

July 26, 2018
Contact: Christopher Gray

Washington, D.C.— Eight attorneys general, led by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, filed comments with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) before yesterday’s deadline, raising concerns that the Commission’s certification process for new interstate natural gas pipelines is giving the green light to some pipelines that are not needed and may be environmentally damaging.

In their comments, the attorneys general cited the Commission’s approval of 180 billion cubic feet of new interstate natural gas pipeline construction per day in the 18-year period between 1999 and 2017, a “significant number that exceeds current national peak demand.” The AGs asked the commission to consider the long-term costs associated with these projects, which disproportionally fall on the residents and small businesses of their states.

“For too long, FERC has disregarded the perspective of state and local governments, ratepayers, and other stakeholders, and approved new gas pipelines without a full evaluation of regional needs and advances in energy policy,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. “I am hopeful that FERC will take this opportunity to make these needed changes to its review process.”

In addition to Massachusetts, attorneys general from Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Washington, and the District of Columbia submitted the comments.

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood adopted the MA-led coalition comments and added additional comments in a separate filing. New York’s comments stress that FERC’s current practice of issuing conditional certificates allows natural gas companies to initiate eminent domain proceedings before the State has completed its own review of the environmental impact of a new pipeline.

“In cases where the State ultimate declines to issue required permits or certifications, landowners will have suffered unnecessary condemnation of their land and, in some cases, irreversible environmental damage will have occurred,” Underwood wrote in her comments.

“The attorneys general's comments warn FERC that its current approach to deciding what new gas pipelines are ‘needed’ is seriously flawed," said David J. Hayes, Executive Director of the State Energy and Environmental Impact Center. “The AGs are demanding that FERC not approve new gas pipeline requests without probing ‘affiliate’ corporate relationships between regulated utilities and gas pipeline proponents, evaluating regional energy needs, and undertaking comprehensive environmental analyses that include evaluations of potential climate impacts."


In December 2017 FERC Chairman Kevin McIntyre announced plans for reassessing FERC’s certification process for new natural gas pipelines, citing changes to the industry since the release of its Natural Gas Policy Statement in 1999.

FERC released an official Notice of Inquiry in April, soliciting public comments on how it determines the public need standard established in section 7 of the Natural Gas Act. FERC’s NOI identified four issues for public input: (1) its use of precedent agreements and contracts for establishing the need for new projects; (2) the potential use of eminent domain and landowner interests; (3) its evaluation of the environmental impact of a proposed project; and (4) improving the efficiency and effectiveness of its certification process.

ABOUT THE STATE ENERGY & ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT CENTER:  The State Energy & Environmental Impact Center is a non-partisan Center at the NYU School of Law that is dedicated to helping state attorneys general fight against regulatory rollbacks and advance clean energy, climate change, and environmental values and protections. It was launched in August 2017 with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies. For more information, visit http://www.law.nyu.edu/centers/state-impact.