FERC Adopts Favorable Buckeye XPress Environmental Assessment; Greenhouse Gas Emissions Not A Prohibitive Factor

By Kelly Daly, Farris Gillman, and Fabian Eichentopf[1]

On January 23, 2020, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) adopted the Office of Environmental Projects’ (OEP) Environmental Assessment (EA) of Buckeye XPress, concluding that the project will have “no significant impact” on “the quality of the human environment.”[2]  The EA conditions approval on adherence to all “construction procedures and mitigation measures described in [Columbia’s] application,” regular updates of construction-related filings, and the prior completion of related local construction projects.[3]

The three commissioners voted along partisan lines:  Chairman Chatterjee (R) expressed support for Buckeye XPress, emphasizing that it will provide for “safe and reliable gas transportation.”[4]  Commissioner McNamee (R) concurred without providing additional reasoning.[5]  Commissioner Glick (D) dissented in part, demanding a better analysis of the impact of greenhouse gas emissions.

Greenhouse gas emissions are not currently a prohibitive factor for project approval because OEP does not have a sound method for determining a project’s impact on climate change.  In his dissent, Commissioner Glick (D) criticized that the EA contained an insufficient emissions analysis and demanded that the Commission should consider emissions more thoroughly,[6] echoing EPA and environmentalist groups.[7]  However, OEP does not have a reliable “method for relating [greenhouse gas] emissions to specific resource impacts” and is “unable to determine the significance of the Project’s contribution to climate change.”[8]

[1] Fabian Eichentopf is a second-year law student at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law.

[2] FERC, Docket No. CP18-137-000 at D-1, accessible at: https://www.ferc.gov/industries/gas/enviro/eis/2019/CP18-137-EA.pdf (last viewed January 23, 2020, at 12:00pm).

[3] Id. at D-1–D-8.

[4] Commission Meeting on January 23, 2020, at 5:45 min.

[5] Id. at 18:20 min.

[6] Id. at 25:35 min.

[7] See, e.g., S&P Global Platts, EPA, green groups weigh in on 275 MMcf/d Buckeye XPress project, accessible at: https://www.spglobal.com/platts/en/market-insights/latest-news/natural-gas/062119-epa-green-groups-weigh-in-on-275-mmcf-d-buckeye-xpress-project (last viewed Jan. 23, 2020, at 2:00pm); see also: Tamborrino, Kelsey, Morning Energy Newsletter, POLITICO (Jan. 23, 2020), accessible at: https://www.politico.com/newsletters/morning-energy/2020/01/23/wotus-rule-finally-coming-784589?tab=most-read (last viewed on Jan. 23, 2020, at 2:30pm) (stating that “Buckeye Xpress . . . will likely reopen the partisan climate debate over pipelines at the commission”).

[8] FERC, supra note 2 at B-235.

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