Mass AG Healey Wants More Climate & Environmental Justice Reviews Before Approving New Gas Pipelines

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in full transparency, the following is a press release from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office submitted to SOURCE media.

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BOSTON – Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey today, May 27, led a coalition of nine attorneys general in calling on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to revise its policy for certifying new natural gas pipelines to consider potential disproportionate impacts on overburdened environmental justice communities and to better scrutinize whether projects are needed in light of national and state greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets.

In the comments filed with FERC Wednesday, the coalition argues that FERC must do more to satisfy its legal duties to ensure that new pipeline projects are in the public interest. The coalition calls on FERC to consider the significance of a project’s greenhouse gas emissions on the climate and to improve its engagement with environmental justice communities during the pipeline review process.

            “Our most vulnerable communities have been overburdened with environmental injustices for far too long and must be protected from the harms of new pipeline projects,” AG Healey said. “We are calling on FERC to further address the impacts of natural gas pipelines on our climate goals and put the needs of our environmental justice communities first in the process.”

The latest data and science show that investment in new gas pipelines is not needed “and would be inconsistent with the public interest in addressing the climate crisis and securing environmental justice for disadvantaged communities,” the coalition writes. Furthermore, FERC “should presume that construction of any additional infrastructure would further extend, rather than reduce, the use of gas and its associated emissions, and could make the necessary transition away from fossil fuels more challenging or costly.”

The coalition specifically calls upon FERC to:

  • Consider achievement of national and state emissions reduction targets, cumulative emissions impacts, and the social cost of greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Expand and improve the Commission’s efforts to engage environmental justice communities in pipeline certification proceedings;
  • Adopt a formal, comprehensive environmental and racial justice policy;
  • Evaluate and consider disproportionate burdens on environmental justice communities and condition or deny certificates to prevent harm to environmental justice communities;
  • Further scrutinize the need for new pipeline projects, taking into account state policies and programs that promote or mandate transitions away from gas and whether ratepayers will be burdened with unwarranted costs; and
  • Uphold the Commission’s commitment to protecting landowners from injustice and irreparable harm related to the exercise of eminent domain for pipeline projects.

Section 7 of the Natural Gas Act authorizes FERC to grant a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the construction or expansion of facilities for the transport of natural gas in interstate commerce. The Natural Gas Act obligates the Commission to consider all factors relevant to the public interest when making a certificate decision, balancing any need for additional pipeline capacity with the project’s adverse effects, including economic and environmental impacts. In addition, the National Environmental Policy Act requires FERC to  examine the full range of environmental impacts associated with proposed pipeline projects. 

These comments follow initial recommendations that a coalition of seven attorneys general, led by AG Healey, filed with FERC in 2018 on how FERC should revise its gas pipeline policy statement. These comments supplement and reinforce the 2018 ones, highlighting new data and recent developments, and call on FERC to develop an environmental justice policy and condition or deny pipeline approvals to prevent harm to environmental justice communities. 

AG Healey is committed to ensuring access to clean energy at affordable prices for all Massachusetts ratepayers, and to working with other state attorneys general and consumer advocates to foster greater participation, transparency, and consideration of environmental and energy justice in FERC proceedings.

            In April, AG Healey led a coalition of nine attorneys general and the Maine Office of the Public Advocate in issuing recommendations to FERC on how to establish and operate a new Office of Public Participation. The coalition identified significant barriers to stakeholders participating in FERC proceedings, and argued that overcoming those barriers will require financial support programs, targeted education and accessibility initiatives, and new types of outreach and engagement tools.

Joining AG Healey in today’s comments to FERC are the attorneys general of Connecticut, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia.

            This matter is being handled by Special Assistant Attorney General for Climate Change Megan Herzog and Assistant Attorney General Matthew Ireland of AG Healey’s Energy and Environment Bureau.

editor

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