Highlands Conservancy Objects to FERC Policy

The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy has joined with some two hundred other organizations from all over the country in a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) requesting what it fully comply with the National Environmental Policy Act.

The thrust of the National Environmental Policy Act is that federal agencies must consider the environmental impact of their actions.  These actions include, in FERC’s case, approval of natural gas pipelines.

The thrust of the letter is that in its approval of natural gas pipelines, FERC has refused to consider the environmental impact of the upstream and downstream impact of those pipelines.  FERC concedes that it has a duty to consider the environmental impacts of the pipeline itself. It has announced, however, a policy that it will not consider the environmental impacts of the extraction of the gas (particularly the extraction by fracking) or the impacts of its burning (particularly the impact that burning the gas has on climate change).

The groups believe that both the impacts of both the extraction and the burning of natural gas are reasonably foreseeable environmental impacts of pipeline construction.  As such, NEPA requires that they be considered as part of the approval of a pipeline.

FERC announced this policy as part of a decision on a project in New York. It is a nationwide issue because FERC also announced that this would be its policy for all decisions on pipelines throughout the country.