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Federal Court Ruling Gives Pipeline Opponents New Ammo

Energy companies have proposed building a large number of pipelines to carry Marcellus and Utica natural gas. (U.S. Energy Information Administration)
Energy companies have proposed building a large number of pipelines to carry Marcellus and Utica natural gas. (U.S. Energy Information Administration)
August 28, 2017

RICHMOND, Va. – In light of a new court ruling, opponents want to force regulators to look at the climate impact of the gas from two huge proposed pipelines.

Last week the Washington, D.C. District Court ruled in favor of the Sierra Club that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission should have considered the greenhouse emissions from gas carried by a pipeline from Alabama to Florida.

Kirk Bowers, pipelines program coordinator for the Virginia chapter of the
Sierra Club, says his group will push for that decision to be applied to the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines.

He says burning gas from those pipelines would mean more carbon than all Virginia power plants now emit – nearly 100 million tons a year.

"And that's almost double what we have now,” he points out. “And that means that we're blowing our carbon budget at a time when we can't afford to use more fossil fuels and emit more greenhouse gasses."

The companies behind the pipelines did include those carbon emissions in their applications. But Bowers calls their estimates "incomplete, inaccurate and low."

Energy companies have plans for about a dozen new pipelines to carry Marcellus and Utica gas. They argue the projects are justified by future demand, although others dispute that.

Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast are two of the three pipelines that would go from northern West Virginia to eastern Virginia and North Carolina.

The Sierra Club has pushed for FERC to consider cumulative impacts and overall need – arguing the commission was created to prevent duplicate projects.

But Bowers says FERC insists on looking at each pipeline separately.

"FERC said they weren't in the business of determining whether they should have three pipelines or not,” he states. “And we've got all these reasons why we don't need more pipelines, and FERC said they're taking a blind-eye approach."

Bowers says FERC also will grant permission for pipelines to go ahead, even before the application process and court challenges are finished. He says in fact, the Alabama pipeline was finished and operating before last week's court ruling came down.


Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA