The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for a panel rehearing of a decision that required extra analysis of downstream greenhouse gas emissions on top of the environmental review the commission had performed in approving the Sabal Trail natural gas pipeline and other components of the Southeast Market Pipelines project.
Many experts had expected FERC to challenge the decision, which would expand its traditional environmental reviews of natural gas infrastructure projects to include downstream uses of the gas.
In the Oct. 6 petition, noting that FERC has already complied with the requirement for the extra analysis, agency attorneys asked the D.C. Circuit to convert its Aug. 22 decision to eliminate the effect of vacating the commission's certificate order approving the pipeline projects. As an alternative, the attorneys asked the panel to grant a stay of issuance of the mandate for an additional 90 days.
"The court's decision appears not to apprehend the disruptive consequences of vacatur here, as it does not reconcile the judgment of vacatur with the public need for the pipeline projects," FERC said.
"Substantial segments of the pipeline projects at issue here are constructed and operating, providing service to natural gas-fired power plants in Florida since June 2017, well before the court's decision," FERC said. "Vacatur compromises the supply of natural gas to those customers and, as a result, threatens their ability to generate electricity for Florida consumers."
In the Aug. 22 decision, the District of Columbia Circuit granted the petition of the Sierra Club and allies and vacated the approvals of the three parts of the Southeast Market Pipelines project: the Enbridge Inc.-led, 515-mile Sabal Trail pipeline; Williams Cos. Inc.'s Hillabee expansion; and NextEra Energy Inc.'s Florida Southeast connection. (U.S. Appeals Court for the D.C. Circuit dockets 16-1329, 16-1387)