Activists Accuse FERC of Ignoring Environmental Concerns, Rubber-Stamping Pipeline Projects

From StateImpact Pennsylvania:
Environmental lawyers say they may have to craft new legal strategies to effectively challenge interstate pipeline construction decisions by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Activists continue to accuse FERC of acting as a rubber stamp when it comes to approving pipeline projects. They argue the agency does not do an adequate environmental review that includes regional and indirect impacts associated with natural gas production, and the cumulative effect of thousands of miles of new pipelines. FERC denies this, repeatedly saying their environmental reviews are rigorous and any impacts from natural gas production are not the result of pipeline construction. 
Either way, some environmental attorneys say the deck is stacked against them when challenging FERC’s decisions. Although the federal Natural Gas Act requires the agency to issue a decision on appeals within 30 days, FERC can extend the deadline indefinitely by issuing what is called a “tolling order.” In some recent cases, FERC issued its decision after the pipes were already in the ground with the gas flowing. 
“[Tolling] orders are officially an “order granting rehearing for further consideration,” said Ryan Talbott, an attorney with the Allegheny Defense Project, “it’s totally Orwellian.” 
Talbott’s organization has challenged FERC’s decisions on a number of natural gas infrastructure projects, including the Cove Point LNG export facility and the Columbia Gas Transmission’s Eastside Expansion project.
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