Home Energy and Environment BREAKING: Late Friday Night, FERC’s Trump Appointees Reject Rehearing Request for ACP...

BREAKING: Late Friday Night, FERC’s Trump Appointees Reject Rehearing Request for ACP on 2-1 Vote; Powerful Dissent by Obama-Appointed Commissioner LaFleur; Other Trump Appointee Abstains But Agrees with LaFleur

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See below for more pipelines action from last night – the favorite time, apparently, for FERC to announce decisions regarding the Atlantic Coast and/or Mountain Valley Pipelines (presumably so hardly anybody notices?). In this installment of “As FERC F***s Us Over on Friday Night,” two Trumpster appointees – Neil Chatterjee and Robert F. Powelson – (unsurprisingly, and of course incorrectly,) voted as follows (note: this decision apparently was released at 11 pm last night…literally in the dark of night!):

  • “The requests for rehearing [regarding FERC’s October 13, 2017 decision to issue a permit for building the Atlantic Coast Pipeline] filed by Demian Jackson; the Fairway Woods Homeowners Condominium Association; Friends of Buckingham; Friends of Nelson; the North Carolina Utilities Commission; Public Interest Groups; Ashram-Yogaville; Shenandoah Valley Network; Sierra Club; William Limpert; and Friends of Wintergreen are dismissed or denied.”
  • “The November 14, 2017 requests for rehearing filed by Anne Bryan and Lakshmi Fjord are rejected as untimely”
  • “Friends of Nelson’s November 20, 2017 corrected request for rehearing is rejected as untimely”
  • “The requests for stay filed by The Fairway Woods Homeowners Condominium Association, Friends of Buckingham, Friends of Nelson; Public Interest Groups, Ashram-Yogaville, Shenandoah Valley Network, Sierra Club, William Limpert, and Friends of Wintergreen are dismissed as moot.”

The Trumpsters’ reasoning is drivel, of course, so I’m not going to waste my time with it. More interesting is the superb dissent by Obama-appointee Cheryl LaFleur, the key paragraph of which reads as follows (bolding added by me for emphasis):

I did not support the Commission’s underlying order authorizing the ACP Project because I concluded the project as proposed was not in the public interest. My consideration of the ACP Project was influenced by my consideration of the certificate application of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) Project, which was decided on the same day as the ACP Project. After carefully balancing the aggregate environmental impacts resulting from the authorization of both of these projects against the economic need of the projects, I could not find either proposal in the public interest. I am dissenting today on the rehearing order for the following reasons: (1) I still do not find the ACP Project is in the public interest. I disagree with the Commission’s approach to evaluating system and route alternatives, particularly in light of the recently-issued Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (Fourth Circuit) decision which vacated the National Park Service’s (NPS) federal authorization allowing the ACP Project to cross the Blue Ridge Parkway; (2) I disagree with the treatment of climate impacts; and (3) I have serious concerns regarding the majority’s articulation of how a project’s environmental impacts weigh into the Commission’s finding that a project is required by the public convenience and necessity under the Natural Gas Act (NGA).”

Also worth noting is the statement by Trump-appointed FERC Commissioner Richard Glick, who chose not to participate in the vote and explained that decision as follows (bolding added by me for emphasis):

“I chose not to participate in today’s order denying rehearing of the Commission’s October 13, 2017 order issuing a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) Project (CP15-554-002; CP15-555- 001; and CP15-556-001) solely to enable those parties challenging the Certificate to have their day in court. If I had voted, the rehearing order would have failed on a 2-2 vote (Chairman McIntyre also is not participating in this proceeding), and pursuant to the requirements of section 19 of the Natural Gas, the appellate courts would not have had jurisdiction to review the Commission’s decision to grant the Certificate.  I share many of the concerns articulated in Commissioner LaFleur’s dissenting opinion and I do not believe that the ACP Project has been shown to be in the public interest.”

See below for the full statements by both LaFleur and Glick. I’d also note that Gov. Northam STILL, at this relatively late date, could step in and exercise Virginia’s considerable authority under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. Why isn’t he doing that? Why isn’t Virginia DEQ doing everything it can to safeguard Virginia’s environment? I don’t know for sure, but if you read this superb article by ProPublica (“What Happens When a Pipeline Runs Afoul of Government Rules? Authorities Change the Rules.”), I think you’ll get a feel for how this game is (slimy) played, who sets (and breaks/evades/ignores) the rules, etc.

UPDATE: According to Defenders of Wildlife Attorney Jason Rylander, this decision is “kind of a big deal,” as “two commissioners have essentially teed up a legal challenge to the ACP….[b]y denying the petition for rehearing they are letting us go to the DC Circuit.” It’s also worth noting that there is “no majority support for the project on the commission.”