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Environmental report: New pipes in Appalachia incompatible with US climate goals

Newpipeline infrastructure being developed to transport Appalachian shale gas willenable production growth that puts the U.S. on track to bust the nation'sclimate goals, according to a recent report supported by environmental groups.

The reportconcluded that no pipelines or other energy projects should be consideredunless they pass a climate test, and 19 proposed pipelines in the Appalachianbasin are incompatible with U.S. climate goals.

ReleasedJuly 22, "A Bridge Too Far: How Appalachian Basin Gas Pipeline ExpansionWill Undermine U.S. Climate Goals," recommended that all federalgovernment agencies, including FERC, incorporate a broad, regional review ofall fossil fuel infrastructure projects and oil and gas production, called aprogrammatic environmental impactstatement.

Thereport also recommended that the U.S. Energy Information Administration providefossil fuel alternatives in its outlooks for future energy use that wouldattempt to meet the nation's long-term climate goals.

Unsurprisingly,the pipeline industry, represented through the Interstate Natural GasAssociation of America, took a different view from the report. The organizationsaid in a July 25 email that pipelines are part of the solution.

"Naturalgas has played a key role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. overthe last decade, and will continue to do so," INGAA said. "Inaddition, our abundant natural gas supplies have helped to create a resurgencein U.S. manufacturing. New pipeline infrastructure is critical to continuingthis economic and environmental progress."

Theenvironmental groups behind the report put the blame for climate impacts ofnatural gas use on pipelines more than production operations or consumption."Proposed pipelines in the Appalachian Basin would unlock substantialgrowth in U.S. natural gas production," the report said.

Specifically,19 pipeline projects in the FERC review process would uncork at least 15.2Bcf/d of gas production, or 116 Tcf of additional production by 2050, accordingto the findings.

Allof these projects are incompatible with U.S. climate goals, the groups said.Oil Change International put together the report, and the Sierra Club, 350.org,Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Earthworks, Environmental Action,Appalachian Voices, Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League and others endorsedthe findings.

Pipelines,built with the support of contracts to keep gas moving for decades, would lockgas into the U.S. energy portfolio at a time when environmental groups sayrenewable energy is ready. Renewables are already the best power solution inparts of the country, and battery storage and control technology for theelectric grid are "ready to even out the intermittency of wind and solar,"the authors said.

"Widelyheld assumptions about the need for fossil fuel baseload power and limits torenewable energy penetration are unraveling fast," according to thereport. "There is nothing standing in the way of building the renewableenergy capacity we need to sustain our electricity needs — except maybe theentrenched interests of the natural gas industry."

Thenatural gas industry has argued that the fuel renewable energy sources andbacks up hydro, wind and solar, running when those sources of power generationcannot run. The EIA has said gas will be the dominant generation source from 2022 through 2040.