Attorney General Tong Urges FERC to Tighten Climate and Environmental Justice Scrutiny for New Gas Pipelines
Coalition of Attorneys General Says New Gas Pipelines “Inconsistent with the Public Interest in Addressing the Climate Crisis and Securing Environmental Justice”
(Hartford, CT) -- Attorney General William Tong joined a coalition of nine attorneys general urging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to strengthen its certification policies for new natural gas pipelines to scrutinize disproportionate impacts on overburdened environmental justice communities, as well as achievement of national and state greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets.
In comments filed with FERC, the coalition argues that FERC must do more to satisfy its legal duties to ensure that new pipeline projects are in the public interest. The coalition calls on FERC to consider the significance of a project’s greenhouse gas emissions to the climate and to improve its engagement with environmental justice communities during the pipeline review process.
“No new natural gas pipelines should be authorized without thorough, science-driven scrutiny of the impact to our climate and environmental justice. We cannot continue to ignore the disproportionate price paid by disadvantaged communities due to pollution from fossil fuels. States like Connecticut have adopted strong climate and air quality targets to protect the health and safety of our families, our economy, and our environment. We need FERC as an ally—not an adversary—in meeting those critical goals,” said Attorney General Tong.
The latest data and science show that investment in new gas pipelines is not needed “and would be inconsistent with the public interest in addressing the climate crisis and securing environmental justice for disadvantaged communities,” the coalition writes. Furthermore, FERC “should presume that construction of any additional infrastructure would further extend, rather than reduce, the use of gas and its associated emissions, and could make the necessary transition away from fossil fuels more challenging or costly.”
The coalition specifically calls upon FERC to:
• Consider achievement of national and state emissions reduction targets, cumulative emissions impacts, and the social cost of greenhouse gas emissions;
• Expand and improve the Commission’s efforts to engage environmental justice communities in pipeline certification proceedings;
• Adopt a formal, comprehensive environmental and racial justice policy;
• Evaluate and consider disproportionate burdens on environmental justice communities and condition or deny certificates to prevent harm to environmental justice communities;
• Further scrutinize the need for new pipeline projects, taking into account state policies and programs that promote or mandate transitions away from gas and whether ratepayers will be burdened with unwarranted costs; and
• Uphold the Commission’s commitment to protecting landowners from injustice and irreparable harm related to the exercise of eminent domain for pipeline projects.
Section 7 of the Natural Gas Act authorizes FERC to grant a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the construction or expansion of facilities for the transport of natural gas in interstate commerce. The Natural Gas Act obligates the Commission to consider all factors relevant to the public interest when making a certificate decision, balancing any need for additional pipeline capacity with the project’s adverse effects, including economic and environmental impacts. In addition, the National Environmental Policy Act requires FERC to examine the full range of environmental impacts associated with proposed pipeline projects.
Joining Attorney General Tong in the comments to FERC are the attorneys general of Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia. The coalition was led by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.
Assistant Attorney General William Dornbos, and Matthew Levine, Deputy Associate Attorney General/Chief of the Environment Section, are assisting the Attorney General in this matter.