A federal court ruled Tuesday that the agency responsible for regulating U.S. natural gas pipelines did not account for the risk a major energy line poses to climate change before approving the project.
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) did not analyze the effects natural gas has on climate change before approving the nearly 700-mile long Southeast Market Pipelines Project.
The Sierra Club believes the court decision lays the groundwork for blocking future pipelines that do not take climate change into account before gaining approval. Activists want the U.S. to swear off all forms of fossil fuels under the belief that they are the prime drivers of man-made global warming.
Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey-branch of the Sierra Club, told reporters that the court’s decision was a “huge win” for the environment, because “it is the first time the court ruled in our favor on an environmental analysis.”
“This decision shows no matter what Donald Trump thinks about climate change, FERC cannot ignore the law,” he said. The court’s ruling shows that climate impacts must be evaluated under the National Environmental Policy Act before pipelines across the East coast can be approved.
Judge Janice Rogers Brown dissented from her colleagues in the case, arguing that FERC does not have the authority to reduce the impact of greenhouse gas emissions from pipelines. The agency should therefore not be responsible for evaluating how a pipeline could affect climate change.
Reports have shown that switching from coal-fired electricity to natural gas power has caused carbon emissions to drop. Academics and environmentalists cite such emissions contribute to climate change.
While green energy and fuel and energy efficiency standards have had some impact on emissions, according to a report last year from Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE), but those are negligible compared to what natural gas has done to bring emissions down.
But BCSE and BNEF aren’t the first groups to report on how effective cheap natural gas has been at reducing CO2 emissions. A study by the conservative Manhattan Institute last year found fracking is responsible for the lion’s share of emissions reductions since 2008.
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also admitted that fracking was a main reason for falling emissions as opposed to green energy policies.
“A key development since AR4 is the rapid deployment of hydraulic‐fracturing and horizontal‐drilling technologies, which has increased and diversified the gas supply and allowed for a more extensive switching of power and heat production from coal to gas … this is an important reason for a reduction of GHG emissions in the United States,” the IPCC stated in its 2013 report.
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