NGC asks CEQ to withdraw GHG guidance for agencies

Six US natural gas associations jointly asked the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to withdraw its December 2014 guidance for federal agencies to consider greenhouse gas emissions in their regulatory activities.

The proposal would be inconsistent with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), its implementing regulations, and established case law, and could have serious impacts on development of the nation’s critical gas infrastructure the groups said in a Mar. 26 filing as the Natural Gas Council (NGC).

“The draft guidance is adverse to our members’ interests because it would create unnecessary litigation, delays, costs, and inefficiencies in the permitting of gas infrastructure projects while providing only speculative environmental benefits,” they said.

Officials from the American Gas Association, America’s Natural Gas Alliance, American Public Gas Association, Independent Petroleum Association of America, Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, and Natural Gas Supply Association signed the comment.

Rapid rehabilitation and expansion of the nation’s gas transportation and storage systems is critical to achieving US President Barack Obama’s energy security and climate agendas, the council noted in its comment. It said the White House also has recognized the need for expedited, modernized, and timely review of proposed gas pipeline and other projects.

Ignores agency’s discretion

“The CEQ guidance does not recognize a federal agency’s existing discretion to tailor NEPA reviews to address climate change, including the possibility that an agency may not consider climate change at all if it is too removed, unforeseeable, or speculative in relation to the proposed project,” NGC said.

“The guidance, if finalized, would create delays in federal permitting and spur contentious litigation over the conflicts between the guidance and existing NEPA law,” it warned.

A day earlier, NGSA separately asked CEQ to withdraw or suspend its proposal. Development of gas production, transportation, and distribution projects “is intrinsically linked to the existing, complicated, and time-tested NEPA review process,” it noted in its Mar. 25 comment.

“Attempting to task agencies with even more requirements to evaluate impacts—impacts that cannot be assessed using a rigorous, balance, and transparent approach—would burden the process even further and, in a worst-case scenario, bring development to a standstill,” it said. “Yet [CEQ’s] revised draft guidance does just that.”

“CEQ’s proposal is simply not the way to address greenhouse gas emissions or to implement climate change policies,” NGSA Senior Vice-Pres. for Government Affairs Jenny Fordham separately said. “In fact, if adopted, the revised draft guidance could undercut the very key to achieving US environmental and economic goals—development of gas infrastructure to move clean-burning natural gas to market.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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