For the first time, a federal energy board is weighing how a proposed natural gas pipeline would affect greenhouse gas emissions, one of several steps taken this week by the Biden administration in its effort to slow climate change.
With a new Democratic chair at the helm, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission voted 3-2 to approve a pipeline operator’s request to replace 87 miles of natural gas pipelines in South Dakota and Nebraska, finding that the project’s climate-warming carbon emissions would not be significant.
The ruling marked the first time the commission has formally assessed a pipeline’s greenhouse gas emissions and their expected contribution to climate change, a reversal of policies pursued under Republican chairs appointed by former President Donald Trump.
FERC is an independent agency that regulates interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas and oil, among other tasks. Members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
“A proposed pipeline’s contribution to #ClimateChange is 1 of its most consequential environmental impacts,” the chair, Democrat Rich Glick, tweeted Thursday. FERC “cannot claim to have adequately addressed the public interest without addressing the significance of that impact,” Glick added. “More work to do, but this is an important start.”
Glick was one of two Democrats to support the addition of climate change as a key consideration, along with former FERC Chair Neil Chatterjee, a Republican who previously opposed the climate provision. Two other Republicans opposed the ruling.