Pipeline opponents suggest reforms to FERC's project review process

Jan. 29, 2018
A coalition of natural gas pipeline opponents suggested eight reforms to the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's project review process in response to FERC Chairman Kevin McIntyre's December 2017 announcement that the process will be reexamined as part of an overall fresh look at the commission's operations.

A coalition of natural gas pipeline opponents suggested eight reforms to the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's project review process in response to FERC Chairman Kevin McIntyre's December 2017 announcement that the process will be reexamined as part of an overall fresh look at the commission's operations.

Representatives of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and Green America said that the suggested reforms in their "Time for a Pipeline Review Process Where People and Our Environment Really Matter" are supported by more than 200 community groups representing affected communities nationwide.

In their Jan. 18 submission, the groups said:

• FERC's commissioners need to hear directly from communities that would feel the impacts of new pipeline construction.

• FERC "must mandate a genuine demonstration of an end-use need for a project that is objectively verified by experts and that cannot be fulfilled by renewable energy options."

• FERC "must respect state and local authority and expertise by deferring to state and local environmental authorities' findings regarding the environmental, community, and economic impacts of pipelines."

• FERC must respect other state and federal agencies' authority by instituting a policy to not approve any project or allowing any construction to proceed until all state and federal permit and review processes have been completed and approvals have been granted.

• FERC must end the use of tolling orders, which the groups said allow pipeline operators to exercise eminent domain and begin construction.

• FERC must remove bias from the process by not hiring consultants who represented a pipeline company seeking commission approval and prohibiting FERC staff or commissioners from working on any pipeline project in they have a direct or indirect financial stake or have worked to represent the company within the previous 5 years.

• FERC should stop using segmentation, which the groups said skews environmental and community impact reviews.

FERC should commit to a complete analysis of the costs and benefits of proposed pipelines, with a full and fair implementation of the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act.

"History tells us that this announced review by FERC will not result in more protections for communities and our environment," said Maya van Rossum, leader of the regional Delaware Riverkeeper Network which is currently fighting more than 12 proposed pipelines.

"If Chairman McIntyre truly wants a better process, then he will honor all eight of our demanded reforms. But if this is just another dog and pony show designed to serve the industry, we are making clear that we are engaged, informed, active, and will fight to protect our environment and communities," she said.