On February 21, 2019, FERC took “a new approach” to its approval of pending FERC-jurisdictional liquefied natural gas (“LNG”) projects by calculating the direct greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions from the operation of the project facilities and comparing those emissions to the national level.  FERC’s approach was a step toward ultimately approving a proposed LNG project that was previously pulled from FERC’s December 2018 open meeting.  Notwithstanding FERC’s approval, Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur reiterated her concern that while FERC’s disclosure of national comparison data is only the first step, “the Commission has not identified a framework for making a significance determination” based on GHG emissions.  Meanwhile, Commissioner Richard Glick dissented, arguing that FERC’s GHG analysis fails to meet the requirements of both the Natural Gas Act (“NGA”) and the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), both of which require that FERC consider climate change implications in some manner.  Separately, FERC approved two smaller gas pipeline projects, with Commissioner LaFleur issuing separate concurrences, and Commissioner Glick issuing separate dissents, in each.    Continue Reading FERC’s New Approach to Measuring National GHG Emissions Leads to LNG Facility Approval

On February 19, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (“D.C. Circuit”) issued an unpublished opinion in Appalachian Voices v. FERC, No. 17-1271, denying petitions for review filed by Appalachian Voices, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and the Sierra Club, among others (“Petitioners”), that challenged FERC’s issuance of a certificate of public convenience and necessity (“certificate”) for the 300-mile natural gas Mountain Valley Pipeline extending from Wetzel County, West Virginia to Pittsylvania County, Virginia. The D.C. Circuit’s order rejected all sixteen of the Petitioners’ challenges to FERC’s approval of the certificate, and notably concluded that: (1) market need for the project was demonstrated by long-term precedent agreements, even though the agreements were with affiliates, and (2) FERC’s estimate of emissions resulting from the end-use combustion of natural gas and explanation why the Social Cost of Carbon is not an appropriate measure of project-level climate change impacts were all that was required by the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”). Continue Reading D.C. Circuit Denies Petitions for Review of FERC’s Mountain Valley Pipeline Approval

On February 14, 2019, FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee testified alongside officials from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, the Department of Energy (“DOE”), the National Guard, and an engineering firm at a hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (“Committee”) to consider cybersecurity efforts in the energy industry.  In response to Senators’ questions about whether the natural gas industry should be subject to mandatory cyber security standards, a position the Chairman laid out in a June 2018 op-ed written with fellow FERC Commissioner Richard Glick, Chairman Chatterjee acknowledged that natural gas pipelines remain vulnerable to cyber-attacks and that it is imperative to continue work to address these threats.  He made clear, however, that industry and government have made significant strides toward addressing the issue even without mandatory cybersecurity standards.  Chairman Chatterjee assured the Committee that FERC is dedicated to protecting the energy sector from cyber threats and is ready to work with Congress and other agencies to bolster the nation’s cybersecurity posture. Continue Reading FERC Chairman Chatterjee Testifies on Cybersecurity

On February 5, 2019, in an unpublished summary order, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit (“2nd Circuit”) overturned the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (“New York DEC”) denial of a water quality certification for National Fuel Gas Supply Corporation’s (“National Fuel”) Northern Access Pipeline Project and remanded it back to the state for further explanation. Continue Reading 2nd Circuit Vacates New York’s Denial of Water Quality Certification for Gas Pipeline

On January 29, 2019, over 180 environmental organizations (“Environmental Groups”) wrote a letter to members of Congress requesting a congressional hearing into the approval process for interstate gas pipelines.  The Environmental Groups argue that FERC approves nearly all proposed pipelines, abuses its eminent domain authority, and relies on erroneous data when evaluating whether to allow pipeline companies to begin construction. Continue Reading Environmental Groups Request Congressional Hearing on FERC Approval of Interstate Gas Pipelines

On January 25, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (“D.C. Circuit”) in a unanimous decision granted a petition for review in Hoopa Valley Tribe v. FERC, No. 14-1271 (D.C. Cir., Jan. 25, 2019).  The key holding in the case, which concerns the ongoing FERC’s relicensing of the Klamath Hydroelectric Project, is that the States of California and Oregon waived their authorities under section 401 of the Clean Water Act (“CWA”), 33 U.S.C. § 1341, by failing to rule on the applicant’s submitted application for water quality certification within one year from when it was initially filed in 2006.  The applicant for many years had followed, at the request of the States, the common industry practice of “withdraw-and-resubmit” of its water quality certification application in an attempt to annually reset the one-year time period for the States to act, as established under CWA section 401.  The D.C. Circuit in Hoopa Valley Tribe invalidated this practice as a means of resetting the statutory clock, instead holding that the clear text of CWA establishes that “a full year is the absolute maximum” time for a state to decide on a water quality certification application. Continue Reading D.C. Circuit Opinion Strikes Down “Withdraw-and-Resubmit” Practice for State Water Quality Certifications

On January 16, 2019, FERC launched investigations and initiated hearings pursuant to Natural Gas Act (“NGA”) section 5 into three natural gas pipeline companies in response to their Form No. 501-G filings to explore whether they have been over-recovering their costs of service.  Separately, FERC also found that nine other gas companies sufficiently complied with FERC’s directives in Order No. 849 and terminated their Form No. 501-G proceedings without taking any further action. Continue Reading FERC Initiates NGA Section 5 Investigations into Three Gas Pipelines’ Rates, Terminates Nine Other Proceedings in Response to Form 501-G Filings

On December 7, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (“Sixth Circuit”) affirmed the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio’s (“District Court”) granting of a preliminary injunction to Nexus Gas Transmission, LLC (“Nexus”).  The preliminary injunction will allow Nexus to exercise the right of eminent domain under the Natural Gas Act (“NGA”) to build an interstate natural gas pipeline through parts of Ohio and Michigan.  The Sixth Circuit held that the District Court did not abuse its discretion in balancing the preliminary injunction factors and in refusing to allow an evidentiary hearing on the issue. Continue Reading Sixth Circuit Affirms Preliminary Injunction, Enabling Nexus Pipeline to Exercise Right of Eminent Domain for Pipeline Construction

On December 3, 2018, several states filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (“D.C. Circuit”) to vacate an order issued by FERC that announced a shift in policy limiting the Commission’s review of greenhouse gas impacts during pipeline permitting. Continue Reading States Chime in During D.C. Circuit Review of FERC Pipeline Permitting Policy

On November 26, 2018, FERC partially granted the California Independent System Operator Corp. (“CAISO”) a temporary extension of two sets of tariff provisions concerning natural gas system limitations on CAISO’s system and corresponding market operations.  While FERC temporarily extended six tariff provisions related to the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility (“Aliso Canyon”) effective November 30, 2018, and December 16, 2018, as requested, it rejected CAISO’s proposal to temporarily extend the tariff revisions regarding gas price scalars. Continue Reading FERC Partially Grants CAISO Waiver of Aliso Canyon Related Tariff Provisions