The national advocacy group Food & Water Watch submitted its initial brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit challenging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) over its approval of Tennessee Gas Pipeline’s East 300 gas expansion project.
This project consists of the construction of a new compressor station in New Jersey and the significant upgrading of two existing compressor stations in New Jersey and Pennsylvania to allow for more gas to flow through the existing 300 Line pipeline. It is meant to move additional gas supplies into Consolidated Edison’s distribution network serving the New York City metro area.
The filing from Food & Water Watch asks the Court to set aside the project’s approval due to FERC’s ongoing refusal to address foreseeable upstream drilling impacts associated with approving new gas pipeline infrastructure, its failure to fully analyze downstream air pollution, and its disregard of how New York state and local climate laws affect projected gas need.
Food & Water Watch’s filing argues that FERC failed to consider a range of issues that it is legally bound to address under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in its decisions. Specifically, FERC failed to address the upstream effects of the project – meaning the impacts from the drilling process necessary to deliver gas over the lifespan of the new infrastructure.
FERC also failed to consider the foreseeable downstream impacts of increased air pollution in Westchester County, which is already in noncompliance with the Clean Air Act’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone. Further, FERC failed to consider the significance of these impacts on climate change.
FERC also failed to demonstrate that the project is even necessary – which is required under the Natural Gas Act. Given that the project exists to deliver gas to New York, FERC should have also considered legislative developments there that will impact gas demand. New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act has drastic emissions reduction requirements that FERC should have considered when determining projected future need.
“The East 300 expansion presents several fundamental problems with how federal regulators review the climate impacts of new fossil fuel infrastructure,” said Food & Water Watch staff attorney Adam Carlesco. “The Commission is required to consider indirect effects of gas infrastructure, such as upstream drilling impacts, downstream air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. This case seeks to enforce that requirement. Moreover, as New York strives to reach the greenhouse gas emissions reductions required by its Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, it is vitally important that FERC consider how approval of new gas infrastructure would hinder reaching those climate goals. With more states pursuing legally binding pollution reduction measures, it is incumbent upon the Commission to account for these laws in their decisions.”
Additionally, New York City’s recent prohibition on gas connections in new and renovated buildings will reduce demand on Consolidated Edison’s local distribution network, which serves both New York City and Westchester County. New York is also poised to enact the nation’s first statewide ban on fossil fuels in new construction, further limiting the demand for expanded fracked gas infrastructure.
One year ago, the same court ruled in favor of Food & Water Watch in another case, holding that FERC should have analyzed the increase in downstream emissions caused by a similar expansion of a gas compressor station in Massachusetts.