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FERC chooses not to petition high court over Southeast Market Pipelines decision

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FERC chooses not to petition high court over Southeast Market Pipelines decision

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission decided not to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review a federal appeals court decision that vacated a commission approval of a large natural gas pipeline project in the Southeast and directed the commission to extend its analysis of greenhouse gas emissions.

FERC spokeswoman Tamara Young-Allen confirmed July 3 that the commission did not file for Supreme Court review.

FERC and other parties had until July 2 to file such a request, called a petition for a writ of certiorari, after the U.S. solicitor general obtained a second extension from the Supreme Court. The high court had placed the case in a docket April 23. (U.S. Supreme Court dockets 16-1329, 16-1387)

A spokesperson for Enbridge Inc. had not responded by the time of publication, but media reports said pipeline developers also had chosen not to ask for a review. Enbridge is the lead developer and operator of the largest piece of Southeast Market Pipelines, the 515-mile Sabal Trail pipeline in service between Alabama and central Florida.

In March, a divided FERC reissued the authorizations for Sabal Trail and the other components of the Southeast Market Pipelines project after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated the authorizations in August 2017. Agreeing with the Sierra Club and other project opponents, the D.C. Circuit had faulted the FERC environmental review for a lack of analysis of greenhouse gas emissions from power plants at the downstream end of the pipeline system and remanded the case back to the commission to add the analysis.

The decision pushed FERC to expand its carefully delineated approach to measuring the climate impacts of individual gas infrastructure projects, and some observers expected the commission to turn to the Supreme Court to undo the precedent.

FERC's Democratic commissioners, Cheryl LaFleur and Richard Glick, and environmental groups have since cited the D.C. Circuit decision in their calls for the commission to broaden its environmental reviews.