In a 2-1 ruling the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found on August 22, 2017, that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) did not properly analyze the climate impact from burning the natural gas that the project would deliver to power plants.
Judge Thomas Griffin, appointed to the court by President George W. Bush, wrote that the project’s environmental impact statement “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. As we have noted, greenhouse-gas emissions are an indirect effect of authorizing this project, which FERC could reasonably foresee, and which the agency has legal authority to mitigate.”
The ruling said, “Quantification would permit the agency to compare the emissions from this project to emissions from other projects, to total emissions from the state or the region, or to regional or national emissions-control goals. Without such comparisons, it is difficult to see how FERC could engage in ‘informed decision making’ with respect to the greenhouse-gas effects of this project, or how ‘informed public comment’ could be possible.”
The Sierra Club had sued FERC, saying that under the National Environmental Policy Act, the law governing all environmental reviews of federal decisions, FERC must consider climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.
The decision overturns the project’s approval and returns it to FERC to complete the necessary greenhouse gas analysis.
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