Panelists talk environmental impact and economic costs in “Pipeline Wars” discussion

Constitution Pipeline, Mountain Valley Pipeline, Sabal Trail pipeline—Robert Seber, a partner at Vinson & Elkins and an adjunct professor at NYU Law, ticked off a list of natural gas projects currently embroiled in litigation, as he moderated a February 6 discussion on “Pipeline Wars: The Battles Over Gas Infrastructure Development.” The panel focused on the environmental and economic impacts of energy pipelines, the demand for energy production, and the role and authority of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas, and oil. Vinson & Elkins and the Frank J. Guarini Center on Environmental, Energy, and Land Use Law co-hosted the event.

Pipeline Wars panelists speaking
(Left to right): Robert Seber, Moneen Nasmith, Jeremy Marwell, Jeff Makholm, Paul Hartman, and Avi Zevin '13

The five panelists included Jeff Makholm, the managing director of NERA Economic Consulting; Jeremy Marwell, a partner at Vinson & Elkins, LLP; Moneen Nasmith, a staff attorney for Earthjustice; Paul Hartman, senior policy advisor for midstream and industry operations at the American Petroleum Institute; and Avi Zevin '13, a staff attorney for NYU Law’s Institute for Policy Integrity (IPI).

IPI’s Zevin said that that pipeline expansion or termination should be based on informed decisionmaking.

“In our view, FERC should embrace the tools that it has available to it to look broadly and specifically at the consequences of approving the pipelines; evaluate the benefits of additional natural gas production and consumption enabled by more pipeline capacity; and evaluate the consequences, the harms, of that additional natural gas pipeline capacity and make a rational decision that maximizes social welfare,” Zevin said.

Earthjustice’s Nasmith argued against pipeline expansion, citing what she called a “long list of public harms.”

“There are some pretty significant safety issues associated with these pipelines and fear, as well as lost property value,” she said, adding “there are some of these pipelines that basically just carve 75 to about 100-foot-wide swaths through communities, through people’s homes, or through people's properties, through forests, so there are environmental costs that come from cutting down those trees.”

Hartman of the American Petroleum Institute expressed concerns about employment losses if pipeline projects are halted. He also cited an industry desire to avoid letting FERC determine the amount of energy provided by oil and gas in the United States.

“We strongly feel that it’s not FERC’s role to determine what the energy mix is,” Hartman said. “That is a process at the state level [or] in Congress, to determine how our energy policies can be developed, how it’s going to incentivize utilization of various fuel sources or energy sources.”

Posted March 20, 2019

Watch video of the discussion here: