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Tell FERC: don't back down to gas industry pressure

Delivery to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

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What’s At Stake

There’s a massively influential government agency you probably haven’t heard enough about — the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). It oversees energy markets and ensures consumers have access to reliable, safe, secure, and affordable energy. If you turned on the lights or heated your home today, FERC likely played a part in that.

Unfortunately, the fossil fuel industry has a lot of influence over FERC decision-making — which is especially bad news given that it oversees gas infrastructure projects like major gas pipelines and export terminals. For decades, FERC has rubberstamped these gas projects without adequately reviewing their environmental impact or whether new pipelines are even needed. This has been a boon for the industry, as FERC has approved more than 99% of the gas projects it has reviewed. But more recently, FERC’s rash approval of gas projects is being rejected and FERC and the gas industry keep losing in court.

Rightfully, the courts have effectively directed FERC to better balance the pros and cons of building new gas pipelines. In response, FERC recently proposed policies that, if finalized, would require a more detailed analysis of pipelines’ adverse effects, including impacts to communities like degraded air quality from gas projects, and a more robust showing that the project will benefit the public. FERC’s policies also require it do a better assessment of greenhouse gas emissions for all the gas projects it reviews.

Predictably, the fossil fuel industry and its political allies came out in full force to attack the new policies and pressure FERC to weaken and delay implementation of its rules. Gas companies claimed the new policies create uncertainty and will reduce investment in new pipelines and export terminals. Industry-allied politicians then fear mongered about non-existent threats to national security these policies would cause. But the reality is that the policies will reduce uncertainty for all stakeholders by ensuring that new projects are legally sound.

Unfortunately, all of this overblown criticism worked. Just weeks after passing its pipeline policy, FERC took a step back and said it would consider changes based on industry and other feedback. And it decided not to apply the policies to pending projects until after it takes comments and finalizes the policies. As a result, FERC may continue to approve new gas projects without a thorough environmental review or showing that they are needed.

For too long, FERC has gotten away with this sort of behavior because its work is hard for the public to track. This time, it’s simple — the fossil fuel industry is afraid of what a thorough analysis of gas projects would show, and it is desperate to keep the rules rigged in its favor. We need your help to make sure things go differently. Tell FERC it’s time to hold the gas industry accountable.

Construction is underway on the Bayou Bridge pipeline in Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Basin, even though a state judge recently ruled that Energy Transfer Partners’ use permit failed to consider the pipeline’s impact on a nearby community.
Courtesy of Julie Dermansky

Construction of the Bayou Bridge pipeline in Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Basin.

Your Actions Matter

Your messages make a difference, even if we have leaders who don't want to listen. Here's why.

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You level the playing field.

Elected officials pay attention when they see that we are paying attention.

They may be hearing from industry lobbyists left and right, but hearing the stories of their constituents — that’s your power.

Our legislators serve at the pleasure of the people who gave them their job — you. When you contact your elected official, you’re putting a face and a name on an issue. Whether or not you voted for them, they work for you, for the duration of their term.

Make sure your elected officials know whose community and whose values they represent. (Find your local, state, and federal elected officials.)

Your action is with us in court.

If a federal agency finalizes a harmful action, the record of public comments provides a basis for bringing them into court.

Throughout each of the public comment periods we alert you to, Earthjustice’s attorneys are researching and writing in-depth, technical comments to submit — detailing how the regulation could and should be stronger to protect the environment, our communities, and our planet.

We need you to join us — your specific experiences, knowledge, and voice are crucial to add to the Administrative Record through the comment periods.

Lawsuits we file that challenge weak or harmful federal regulations rely on what was submitted during the comment period. The court can only look at documents that are in the Administrative Record — including the public comments — to decide if the agency did something improper.

Your actions aid our litigation. Taking action and submitting comments during a comment period is substantively important.

It’s the law.

Federal agencies must pause what they’re doing and ask for — and consider — your comment.

Many of us may have never heard of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), but laws like these require our government to ask the public to weigh in before agencies adopt or change regulations.

Regulations essentially describe how federal agencies will carry out laws — including decisions that could undermine science, or weaken safeguards on public health.

Public comments are collected at various points throughout the federal government’s rulemaking process, including when a regulation is proposed and finalized. (Learn more about the rulemaking process.) These comments become part of the official, legal public record — the “Administrative Record.”

When the public responds with a huge outpouring of support for environmental protections, these individual messages collectively undercut politicians' attempts to claim otherwise.

What this means is each of us can take a role in shaping the rules our government creates — and ensuring those rules are fair and effective.