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.