Council on Environmental Quality Seeks Public Comment on Draft NEPA Greenhouse Gas Emission Guidance

Brett A. Snyder and Lamiya N. Rahman

The Council on Environmental Quality has published Draft Guidance to federal agencies to evaluate the effects of greenhouse gas emissions under the National Environmental Policy Act. The Draft Guidance is largely consistent with the approach taken by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in recent natural gas infrastructure orders. Comments are due on July 26, 2019.

Introduction

On June 26, 2019, the Council on Environmental Quality (“CEQ”) published new draft guidance to clarify the scope of review federal agencies should undertake when considering the effects of greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) and related regulations.The Draft Guidance is intended to replace CEQ’s prior GHG-related guidance, which was adopted in 2016 and later rescinded pursuant to an Executive Order in 2017.2 The Draft Guidance is largely consistent with the approach taken by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) in recent natural gas infrastructure orders.

CEQ’s Draft Guidance

NEPA is a procedural statute that requires federal agencies to analyze the environmental impacts of any major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.3 Although NEPA does not mandate any particular substantive outcomes, it requires an agency to consider the direct and reasonably foreseeable indirect effects of a proposed action.4

The Draft Guidance states that “[a] projection of a proposed action’s direct and reasonably foreseeable indirect GHG emissions may be used as a proxy for assessing potential climate effects.”5 While direct effects are caused by an action and occur at the same time or place, indirect effects are caused by the action and are later in time or farther removed in distance but are still reasonably foreseeable. Thus, the proposed guidance suggests that quantification of emissions is sufficient to meet an agency’s obligation to assess effects of emissions.

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In PG&E Bankruptcy, FERC Reasserts Concurrent Jurisdiction over the Disposition of Wholesale Power Contracts

Mark R. Haskell, Frederick M. Lowther, and Lamiya N. Rahman

With the May 1 order, the Commission reaffirms its view that it has concurrent jurisdiction over debtors’ efforts to reject their FERC-jurisdictional contracts in bankruptcy. Further developments in judicial proceedings in the Sixth and Ninth Circuits are expected.

On May 1, 2019, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC” or “the Commission”) denied Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (“PG&E”) requests for rehearing of two Commission orders asserting concurrent jurisdiction with bankruptcy courts over the disposition of wholesale power contracts PG&E seeks to reject through bankruptcy.1

In its Rehearing Order, the Commission acknowledged a circuit split regarding the relative authorities of the Commission under the Federal Power Act (“FPA”) and the bankruptcy courts under the Bankruptcy Code as they relate to the review and disposition of FERC-jurisdictional contracts in bankruptcy proceedings. However, the Commission affirmed its prior holdings that that “the way to give effect to both the FPA and the Bankruptcy Code is for a party to a Commission-jurisdictional wholesale power contract to obtain approval from both the Commission and the bankruptcy court to modify the filed rate and reject the contract, respectively.”2 Continue reading “In PG&E Bankruptcy, FERC Reasserts Concurrent Jurisdiction over the Disposition of Wholesale Power Contracts”

FERC Commissioners Approve the Venture Global Calcasieu Pass LNG Export Project but Signal Divisions in Approaches to Evaluating GHG Emissions

Mark R. Haskell, Brett A. Snyder, and Lamiya N. Rahman

On February 21, 2019, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC” or “the Commission”) issued an order authorizing Venture Global Calcasieu Pass, LLC (“Calcasieu Pass”) to site, construct, and operate a new liquefied natural gas (“LNG”) terminal and associated facilities (the “Export Terminal”) pursuant to section 3 of the Natural Gas Act (“NGA”).1 The Certificate Order also authorized TransCameron Pipeline, LLC (“TransCameron”) to construct and operate a new interstate pipeline under NGA section 7. Although the Certificate Order drew favorable conclusions in its environmental review of the projects, a concurrence by Commissioner LaFleur and a dissent by Commissioner Glick signaled growing dissatisfaction among half of the current Commission with respect to FERC’s practice of evaluating a project’s greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions.

The Certificate Order

The Export Terminal, to be located along the Calcasieu Ship Channel in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, will have a nameplate capacity of 10 million metric tons per annum (“MTPA”) and a peak capacity of 12 MTPA under optimal operating conditions. Natural gas will be delivered to the Export Terminal by TransCameron’s proposed 23.4-mile, 42-inch diameter interstate pipeline, which will extend from the Grand Chenier Station in Cameron Parish, Louisiana to the Export Terminal and will be able to provide up to 2,125,000 dekatherms per day (“Dth/d”) of natural gas transportation service. Continue reading “FERC Commissioners Approve the Venture Global Calcasieu Pass LNG Export Project but Signal Divisions in Approaches to Evaluating GHG Emissions”

Charting Climate Change Cases: A Survey of Recent Litigation

Margaret Anne Hill and Stephen C. Zumbrun

Introduction

Right now, cases involving climate change are being heavily litigated in courts across the United States. Hundreds of climate change-related cases have been filed in both federal and state courts, where parties are challenging governments’ and industry’s knowledge of and contribution to climate change. In the abstract, one would think that litigation involving emissions of greenhouse gases (“GHG”) linked to climate change would largely focus on the federal Clean Air Act. Yet, climate change-related cases now involve ever-expanding causes of action, including not only claims under the federal Clean Air Act and other federal statutes, but claims under the U.S. Constitution, state law claims, and common law claims.

There are several active cases that may have major implications on the government’s role in determining the direction of climate change policy, and on private companies’ past and future liability for alleged contributions to climate change, as well as knowledge of climate change impacts on business decision-making. This article discusses notable current cases involving climate change. Continue reading “Charting Climate Change Cases: A Survey of Recent Litigation”

Pipeline Update: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow? FERC’s Natural Gas Pipeline Greenhouse Gas Analysis Policy

Stephen C. Zumbrun

The Republican majority of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC” or “Commission”) has drawn a clear distinction with how and when the Commission will analyze upstream and downstream greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions when reviewing natural gas pipeline projects. But with the recent announced resignation by Republican Commissioner Robert Powelson, a pending Notice of Inquiry issued by the Commission, a separate advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued by the Council on Environmental Quality (“CEQ”), and a recent petition to the D.C. Circuit Court, this current established protocol may not last and by this time next year we may see a whole new approach to pipeline GHG analysis coming out of FERC. Continue reading “Pipeline Update: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow? FERC’s Natural Gas Pipeline Greenhouse Gas Analysis Policy”

New PA DEP Data Confirms That Methane Emissions Continue to Plummet from Unconventional Natural Gas Production in Pennsylvania

Michael L. Krancer

Pennsylvania DEP’s 2015 Air Emissions Inventory for Unconventional Natural Gas Operations is out. It was released late in the day on Thursday before the Labor Day weekend so there will be a lot of “debrief” as time goes on. But here is an early take. Continue reading “New PA DEP Data Confirms That Methane Emissions Continue to Plummet from Unconventional Natural Gas Production in Pennsylvania”