Democrats Say Energy Regulator Moving Backward on Climate Change

(Bloomberg) -- Just weeks after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission launched a sweeping review of its natural gas pipeline policy, its members are again split on the extent to which they should take climate change into account.

In the latest clash, the commission’s Republican members voted to dismiss an environmental group’s challenge to Dominion Energy Inc.’s New Market gas pipeline in upstate New York, ruling that the modest project didn’t warrant an analysis of upstream or downstream greenhouse emissions.

The agency’s two Democrats, Cheryl LaFleur and Richard Glick, characterized the dismissal as a de-facto policy change that limits how the commission factors in the impact of climate change.

“I find it particularly disappointing that the Commission is adopting this new policy just as it embarks on a broad review of the Commission’s process for certificating new natural gas pipelines, which will include how greenhouse gas emissions are assessed,” Glick wrote in his dissent.

It’s not the first time cracks have appeared at the five-member agency, with both LaFLeur and Glick expressing concerns over pipeline approvals in recent months.

And a U.S. appeals court ruled last year that the commission had failed to consider climate change impacts in its approval of the Sabal Trail natural gas pipeline, a joint venture of Spectra Energy Partners, NextEra Energy Inc. and Duke Energy Corp.

That court ruling "clearly signaled that the Commission should be doing more as part of its environmental reviews," LaFleur said Friday. "Today, however, the majority has changed the Commission’s approach for environmental reviews to do the exact opposite."

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