On March 22, 2021, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission) for the first time issued an order that assessed whether greenhouse gas emissions related to a natural gas pipeline certificate project would significantly contribute to climate change. FERC purported to perform the assessment pursuant to its obligation under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to take a “hard look” at a project’s environmental impacts.
On Friday, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) rescinded draft guidance published by the Trump administration in June 2019 discussing how agencies should consider greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions when evaluating proposed major federal actions under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In that draft guidance, CEQ rescinded its 2016 Obama-era guidance and suggested that agencies may perform a more limited review of a project’s GHG emissions and impact on climate change, stating that “[a]gencies preparing NEPA analyses need not give greater consideration to potential effects from GHG emissions than to other potential effects on the human environment.” That draft guidance had further stated that agencies do not need to account for the “social cost of carbon” when quantifying the direct and reasonably foreseeable indirect greenhouse gas emissions from proposed actions.
On February 18, 2021, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) reopened the comment period for its Notice of Inquiry (NOI) on the Certification of New Interstate Natural Gas Facilities. FERC applies its current policy, issued in 1999, to assess whether to issue interstate natural gas transportation facilities a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN), a foundational permit required for their construction and operation. FERC must abide with its obligations under the Natural Gas Act and National Environmental Policy Act when considering pipeline certificate applications. FERC initially issued the NOI in April 2018, seeking comment on whether, and if so how, it should revise its approach to evaluating CPCN applications. The docket has been pending for nearly three years.
On October 23, 2020, a week of climate discussions by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Intersessional Working Group on Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Ships concluded with draft measures to cut carbon emissions from ships. The new measures would amend the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution From Ships (MARPOL Convention) and require ships to reduce their carbon intensity as part of IMO’s goal to reduce the carbon intensity of international shipping by 40% by 2030 from 2008 levels. If adopted, the amendments would require new ships to be built so that they are more energy efficient than the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) baseline. (more…)
On October 2, 2020, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) unveiled a discussion draft of its 2020 Mobile Source Strategy. The strategy incorporates the zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) goals set forth in the recent Executive Order issued by California Governor Gavin Newsom and sets out steps for achieving those goals, such as requiring manufacturers to support and promote advanced technologies and in-use requirements for advanced technologies. (more…)
On September 23, 2020 California Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-79-20, expressing the goals that:
- by 2035, 100% of all in-state sales of new passenger cars and trucks will be zero-emission vehicles (“ZEV”);
- by 2045, 100% of all medium-and heavy-duty vehicles in the state be zero-emission for all operations where feasible (and the same goal for drayage trucks by 2035); and
- by 2035, the State will transition to 100% zero-emission off-road vehicles and equipment (where feasible).
On June 4, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (“D.C. Circuit”) offered non-binding advice to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) on how it should perform environmental reviews of greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions when it considers new natural gas pipeline projects. While the opinion in Birckhead v. FERC ultimately upheld FERC’s order permitting a new natural gas compressor station near Nashville, Tennessee, the court devoted several pages of dicta on what upstream and downstream GHG emissions data FERC should be gathering to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”).