Media Statements & Speeches
Commissioner Richard Glick
August 10, 2018
Docket No. CP14-554-003
Dissent on Southeast Market Pipelines (Sabal Trail)
In Sabal Trail,1 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (D.C. Circuit) vacated and remanded a certificate of public convenience and necessity issued by the Commission under section 7 of the Natural Gas Act (NGA).2 Far from complying with the Court’s remand, today’s order doubles down on the deficiencies that led the Court to vacate the order in the first place. Although the Commission pays lip service to climate change, it structures its environmental review in a way that precludes the harms of climate change from playing a role in the Commission’s assessment of the public interest pursuant to the NGA and its examination of the environmental impacts of a proposed project pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).3 The Commission’s refusal to consider the harms caused by climate change in its public interest determination is directly contrary to the Court’s holding in Sabal Trail and reveals the Commission’s stubborn adherence to the views that the Court rejected. Similarly, today’s order does not adequately respond to the Court’s directives regarding the Social Cost of Carbon. As a result, the certificate remains deficient and deserves to be vacated a second time.
I. The Commission’s Determination that Sabal Trail Is in the Public Interest Is Not the Product of Reasoned Decisionmaking
Sabal Trail explained that Section 7 of the NGA requires the Commission to balance “‘the public benefits [of a proposed pipeline] against the adverse effects of the project,’ including adverse environmental effects.”4 If a pipeline’s adverse effects outweigh its public benefits, the project is not in the public interest and the Commission must deny the section 7 certificate.5 As relevant here, that means that the section 7 balancing test must incorporate an analysis of the environmental harms, including those caused by a proposed pipeline’s contribution to climate change. Indeed, it is hard to imagine how the Commission could possibly assess whether a proposed pipeline that could cause Florida’s statewide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to increase nearly 10 percent annually6 could be in the public interest without considering the contribution of those emissions to the harms wrought by climate change.
Unfortunately, Sabal Trail’s potential contribution to the consequences of climate change does not play a meaningful role in the Commission’s balancing of the factors bearing on the public interest. The Commission asserts that it evaluates the public interest by first considering whether a pipeline’s economic benefits outweigh its economic harms. Then, for projects that have net economic benefits, the Commission claims that it considers environmental impacts by determining whether the project would be “environmentally acceptable.”7
The devil lies in the details of how the Commission determines whether a project is “environmentally acceptable.” In analyzing the environmental impacts of a proposed project, the Commission must determine whether the impacts are “significant” and whether those impacts can be mitigated. Only then will the Commission determine whether the project is environmentally acceptable. In the case of climate change, however, the Commission steadfastly refuses to determine whether the harms of a project will be significant. As a result, GHG emissions, by definition, will never cause a project’s environmental impacts to be unacceptable. This means that the Commission’s consideration of the public interest will, again by definition, never reflect the impacts caused by a pipeline’s contribution to climate change. In other words, the harms caused by climate change cannot factor into the Commission’s approval of a proposed pipeline—a result that directly contradicts the D.C. Circuit’s holding in Sabal Trail.
Sabal Trail held that the Commission’s issuance of a section 7 certificate was a legally relevant cause of the downstream emissions because the Commission could reject a section 7 application on the basis of its “harm to the environment,” which, in the case of GHG emissions, would be its contribution to climate change.8 No matter how badly the Commission may wish to approve this pipeline, it may not ignore the authority conferred upon it by Congress or the requirements that the D.C. Circuit imposed in remanding the certificate. Yet that is exactly what the Commission does.
The Commission responds by blithely insisting that “Congress has not granted the Commission the responsibility to affirmatively establish federal climate policy.”9 Of course it has not, but that entirely misses the point. Section 7 of the NGA “requires the Commission to evaluate all factors bearing on the public interest,”10 which Sabal Trail authoritatively held includes a proposed pipeline’s contribution to the harms caused by climate change.11 The Commission’s evident disagreement with that conclusion is no basis to disregard a binding decision of the D.C. Circuit.
In any event, the Commission’s case-by-case determination of whether a pipeline is in the public interest notwithstanding its impact on the climate is no more a national climate policy than considering a pipeline’s impact on landowners is a national housing policy. The effects of climate change are just one of the many factors that the Commission must consider when evaluating the public interest. And even where the effects of climate change are significant, the public interest may well still require the approval of a proposed pipeline. In enacting section 7, Congress surely understood that it was requiring the Commission to consider a wide range of factors. Otherwise it would have enumerated the issues to be considered, rather than providing a standard as broad as the “public interest.”
Finally, this is not an instance in which an agency is using “an implicit delegation”12 to arrogate to itself a question of “deep ‘economic and political significance’” that is so central to the statutory scheme that Congress would have intended to decide it itself.13 Rather, the Commission is conducting individualized, case-by-case determinations applying the public interest standard Congress authorized it to use for this very purpose. Determining whether a particular pipeline’s environmental harms outweigh its economic benefits is a far cry from the instances in which the courts have invoked the “extraordinary cases” doctrine articulated in King.14
II. The Commission’s Refusal To Assess the Significance of GHG Emissions Is Not the Product of Reasoned Decisionmaking
Sabal Trail also required the Commission to “discuss the significance” of GHG emissions caused by the pipeline and to “quantify and consider the project’s downstream carbon emissions or explain in more detail why it cannot do so.”15 As noted, the Commission has complied with only half of that mandate; it has quantified the emissions, but refused to assess their significance.16 To “discuss the significance” of the harm from a pipeline’s contribution to climate change, the Commission must actually evaluate the magnitude of the pipeline’s environmental impact.17 Doing so enables the Commission to compare the environment before and after the proposed federal action and factor the changes into its decisionmaking process.18
Yet the Commission continues to claim that it cannot evaluate the significance of the GHG emissions caused by the pipeline without a specific GHG threshold or reduction target.19 Specifically, it suggests that complying with the Court’s mandate is impossible because “[w]ithout some specific definition, or basis in physical science, it would be inappropriate to ascribe significance to a rate of volume of GHG emissions.”20 But the only reason that the Commission lacks a specific definition or threshold for significance is that it has not undertaken to develop one.21 The Commission’s own inaction is no reason to disregard the Court’s mandate or the Commission’s responsibilities under NEPA. In refusing to actually consider the pipeline’s GHG emissions or recognize the causal link between those emissions and climate change, the Commission has failed to take the “hard look” that NEPA demands and that Sabal Trail explicitly required.22
The Commission also claims that it is excused from considering the environmental consequences of the pipeline since “considering GHG emissions would have no effect on [the] alternatives analysis because consumption emissions would not vary with alternatives.”23 But a federal agency cannot escape its NEPA obligations to take a hard look at a particular project by simply claiming that the federal action will eventually happen in one form or another. As an initial matter, it is not at all clear that the shippers in question would certainly seek alternative supplies of natural gas.24 Furthermore, the record does not support the Commission’s assumption that procuring the gas from elsewhere would result in the exact same level of emissions. For example, an alternative source of transportation may not have the same potential excess capacity, which would result in lower potential emissions.25 In addition, an alternative source of gas supply may have different economics, which could change the total quantity of gas consumed. In failing to wrestle with these concerns, the Commission has not justified its foundational assumptions. In addition, even if an agency does not know the precise level of emissions to attribute to a federal action, that is no excuse for assuming that number is zero, as the Commission does today.26
The Commission also claims that its conclusion that the project and the no-action alternative are perfect substitutes does not suffer the same flaws that led to the remand in WildEarth Guardians v. United States Bureau of Land Management.27 The Commission asserts that no party has “shown that [the Commission’s] decision contradicts basic economic principles.”28 Putting aside the fact that it is the Commission, not the parties, that bears the burden of establishing the legality of today’s order, the Commission’s discussion of the case fails to explain its conclusion that the “no-action alternative ‘would only eliminate one potential source of fuel but would not decrease the ultimate consumption of fossil fuel to satisfy demand for electricity or reduce GHG emissions”—exactly the conclusion in WildEarth Guardians.29
The Commission assumes, without explanation, that denying a certificate of public convenience and necessity would not impact the price of or the demand for natural gas. That is the very assumption that WildEarth Guardians held was “irrational (i.e., contrary to basic supply and demand principles).”30 Even if the majority could demonstrate that the pipeline will not result in any additional downstream GHG emissions—it would still be required to consider the significance of the pipeline’s downstream GHG emissions compared with the no-action alternative and ultimately conclude that the harms caused by the pipeline’s contribution to climate change are insignificant. In failing to do so, the Commission has not satisfied its obligation to adequately consider and disclose the pipeline’s environmental impact.
III. The Commission’s Rationale for Ignoring the Social Cost of Carbon Is Arbitrary and Capricious
Sabal Trail required the Commission to explain whether the Social Cost of Carbon is a “useful” tool for measuring the harm caused by a particular project’s contribution to climate change.31 Today’s order answers that question in the negative. In support of its determination, the Commission advances a number of arguments that are variations on a single theme: That there is no value in calculating the economic harm caused by a pipeline’s contribution to climate change unless the Commission simultaneously calculates the pipeline’s economic benefits.
The Commission initially asserts that NEPA does not require a full cost-benefit determination. While true, this point does not respond to the Court’s question: Whether the Social Cost of Carbon is “a useful measure for NEPA purposes.”32 The Commission also points to guidance from the CEQ to argue that “‘weighing of the merits and drawbacks of the various alternatives need not be displayed in a monetary cost-benefit analysis and should not be when there are important qualitative considerations.’”33 That CEQ guidance also does not answer the Court’s question. The same CEQ guidance document recognizes that agencies may conduct a quantitative assessment of impacts of climate change without conducting a complete cost-benefit analysis.34 In addition, EPA has explained that “even absent a full [cost-benefit analysis],” estimates of the Social Cost of Carbon “may be used for project analysis when [the Commission] determines that a monetary assessment of the impacts associated with the estimated net change in GHG emissions provides useful information in its environmental review or public interest determination.”35 In any case, the Commission’s decision to quantify the harms of climate change qualitatively is not a reason to conclude that there are qualitative aspects of climate change that preclude any quantitative considerations of the harms associated with climate change. “That circular rationale fails to satisfy the requirement of reasoned decisionmaking.”36
Several courts have recently required federal agencies to consider the Social Cost of Carbon in their NEPA decisionmaking processes when those agencies also quantified some benefits associated with the proposed federal action. The Commission’s attempts to distinguish these cases are unavailing. In particular, both High Country37 and Montana38 held that it was arbitrary and capricious to quantify the benefits of the proposed projects, but not to quantify the associated harms given the availability of the Social Cost of Carbon as a tool for doing so.39 Today’s order attempts to distinguish these cases on the basis that the Commission has not quantified the benefits of the pipeline and, therefore, it is not required to quantify the costs.40 But the Commission’s environmental impact statements regularly quantify several measures of potential economic benefits of the project, including the direct, indirect, and induced benefits from increased employment and local taxes, all measured in dollar terms.41 The fact that the Commission has quantified some but not all of the benefits is no reason not to quantify at least some of the harms. The Commission’s attempt to have it both ways—quantifying some benefits, but refusing to quantify some harms—perfectly illustrates why the Commission’s discussion of the Social Cost of Carbon fails to adequately respond to the D.C. Circuit’s mandate in Sabal Trail or NEPA’s requirement that the Commission take a “hard look” at the pipeline, including the means for measuring its impact on the environment.42
After attempting to distinguish these cases, the Commission settles on its principal argument, which is that it does not make sense to consider the economic costs of climate change without considering the “context” provided by an economic analysis of the benefits that the pipeline might provide.43 The Commission, however, never actually explains why its analysis would lack context if it included a measure of economic harm without fully monetizing the project’s benefits or why a measure of economic harm cannot be useful in its own right—a question that is directly implicated by the D.C. Circuit’s remand in Sabal Trail.
Nor is it obvious why a full accounting of the pipeline’s benefits is necessary for the Social Cost of Carbon to be useful. Part of the value provided by the Social Cost of Carbon is that, by measuring the long-term damage done by a ton of carbon dioxide, it provides a meaningful method for linking GHG emissions to particular climate impacts, thereby providing both the agency and the public with the “hard look” required to assess the magnitude of a proposed project’s impact on the climate. Especially when it comes to a global problem like climate change, a measure for translating a discrete project’s climate impacts into concrete and comprehensible terms can play a useful role in the NEPA process by putting the project’s harms in terms that are readily accessible for both agency decisionmakers and the public at large.44 That is true irrespective of whether the Commission provides a similar accounting of every single one of the project’s economic benefits.
In any case, the Commission’s insistence on having the context provided by both a project’s costs and benefits before considering either one is inconsistent with its own practice. As noted, the Commission has quantified potential benefits of this pipeline, including the benefits from increased employment and local taxes.45 Today’s order provides no explanation as to why these economic measures of a project’s benefits can be considered without the context of the project’s costs, but to do the opposite would be “misleading.”46 The failure to explain that inconsistency is arbitrary and capricious.
“Climate change poses an existential threat to our security, economy, environment, and, ultimately, the health of individual citizens.”47 That is why it is no surprise that the D.C. Circuit concluded that a pipeline’s contribution to climate change falls within the Commission’s section 7 mandate to evaluate the public interest. That is also why it is so disappointing that today’s order fails to take seriously our mandate or the Court’s remand. The recitations of climate change’s potentially catastrophic harms in the EIS are little more than empty words if the Commission will not even consider those harms when evaluating the public interest. Paying lip service to concerns as grave as climate change cannot be what Congress intended when it made the Commission responsible for evaluating whether a proposed pipeline is in the public interest. Similarly, I agree with Commissioner LaFleur that the Commission’s interpretation of our responsibilities would render NEPA an “academic exercise” in stark contrast to what Congress intended when it made NEPA the backbone of federal environmental law.48 The D.C. Circuit has already once corrected the Commission’s miserly interpretation of its responsibilities under NEPA and the NGA. Today’s order is destined for the same fate.
For these reasons, I respectfully dissent.
- 1 Sierra Club v. FERC, 867 F.3d 1357, 1373 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (Sabal Trail).
- 2 5 U.S.C. § 717(f) (2012). The D.C. Circuit has explained that the principal factor weighing in favor of vacatur is “the seriousness of the order’s deficiencies (and thus the extent of doubt whether the agency chose correctly).” Allied-Signal, Inc. v. Nuclear Regulatory Comm'n, 988 F.2d 146, 150–51 (D.C. Cir. 1993).
- 3 42 U.S.C. § 4321 et seq. (2012).
- 4 Sabal Trail, 867 F.3d at 1373 (quoting Myersville Citizens for a Rural Cmty. v. FERC, 783 F.3d 1301, 1309 (D.C. Cir. 2015)).
- 5 See id. at 1373 (explaining that the Commission may “deny a pipeline certificate on the ground that the pipeline would be too harmful to the environment”).
- 6 Fla. Se. Connection, LLC, 162 FERC ¶ 61,233, at P 26 (2018) (citing Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement at tbl. 6 (Final SEIS)).
- 7 Fla. Se. Connection, LLC, 164 FERC ¶ 61,099, at P 55 (2018) (Rehearing Order). I do not mean to suggest that the process the Commission describes satisfies our responsibilities under section 7 of the NGA. It does not actually weigh all the harms of a proposed project against the benefits, which I believe is necessary to truly evaluate whether a proposed pipeline is in the public interest.
- 8 Sabal Trail, 867 F.3d at 1373. That conclusion was essential to the Court’s holding because, without it, the Court would not have supplied a basis for distinguishing cases involving NGA section 3. See id. at 1372–73.
- 9 Rehearing Order, 164 FERC ¶ 61,099 at P 57. In any case, the fact that we lack a national climate policy is no reason to permit the Commission to shirk its responsibilities under the NGA. Indeed, both the NGA and NEPA predate the major federal environmental statutes establishing comprehensive national policies and yet they nevertheless require the Commission to evaluate and consider environmental impacts.
- 10 Atl. Ref. Co. v. Pub. Serv. Comm’n, 360 U.S. 378, 391 (1959) (holding that NGA section 7 requires the Commission to consider “all factors bearing on the public interest”); see also Sabal Trail, 867 F.3d at 1375 (“[T]he existence of permit requirements overseen by another federal agency or state permitting authority cannot substitute for a proper NEPA analysis.”).
- 11 See supra note 8.
- 12 King v. Burwell, 135 S. Ct. 2480, 2489 (2015) (citing FDA v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., 529 U.S. 120, 159 (2000)).
- 13 Id. (citing Utility Air Regulatory Grp. v. EPA, 134 S. Ct. 2427, 2444 (2014); see Rehearing Order, 164 FERC ¶ 61,099 at P 57.
- 14 E.g., Brown & Williamson, 529 U.S. at 159–160 (explaining that the Food and Drug Administration’s interpretation would have given it the authority to ban tobacco products, notwithstanding their “unique political history” and their regulation under an entirely distinct regulatory scheme). The Commission’s argument appears to boil down to the assertion that climate change is such a significant issue that Congress could not have intended it to fall within the public interest determination unless it said so explicitly. Rehearing Order, 164 FERC ¶ 61,099 at P 57. I would draw exactly the opposite conclusion: Climate change is such a significant issue that its impacts could be excluded from the public interest determination only if Congress said so explicitly, which, of course, it has not.
- 15 Sabal Trail, 867 F.3d at 1375.
- 16 Rehearing Order, 164 FERC ¶ 61,099 at P 23 (insisting that there is “no basis” for addressing the significance of GHG emissions).
- 17 Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations adopt a two-step framework for determining whether an environmental impact is significant. Agencies must consider both the “context” of the proposed action and the “intensity” of the environmental consequences. 40 C.F.R. § 1508.27 (“Significantly as used in NEPA requires considerations of both context and intensity.”); id. (“‘Context’ . . . means that the significance of an action must be analyzed in several contexts such as society as a whole (human, national), the affected region, the affected interests, and the locality.”); id. (“‘Intensity’ . . . refers to the severity of the impact, . . . [including t]he degree to which” it affects considerations including “public health or safety” and the environment). This definition of significance appears in the definitional section of the CEQ regulations, suggesting that it applies throughout the regulations. The definition serves as a foundation for the overall sufficiency of the NEPA review, which hinges on a series of decisions involving “significance.” Those decisions include, among others, whether to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), whether each environmental impact is significant and what mitigation measures are appropriate, and whether the impacts of a project are significant relative to a no-action alternative. The Commission’s contention that the definition of significance is applicable only in determining whether to prepare an EIS is without support and contrary to any reasonable reading of the regulatory framework. The absence of any authority in support of its reading speaks volumes.
- 18 See Sabal Trail, 867 F.3d at 1374 (“The [FEIS] needed to include a discussion of the ‘significance’ of this indirect effect.”); 40 C.F.R. § 1502.16 (An agency’s environmental review must “include the environmental impacts of the alternatives including the proposed action,” as well as a discussion of “indirect effects and their significance.”).
- 19 Rehearing Order, 164 FERC ¶ 61,099 at P 23.
- 20 Final SEIS at 7 (emphasis added).
- 21 As noted above, the CEQ regulations expressly outline the factors the Commission must use to determine whether the Project’s impacts on the environment are significant, and the Commission can use these factors to develop a framework to consider the significance of the Project’s impact. See supra note 17. In addition, as discussed further below, the Social Cost of Carbon exists partly for the purpose of enabling agencies to put the harms caused by climate change into concrete terms, facilitating the development of the type of threshold or standard that the Commission claims it requires.
- 22 See Sabal Trail, 867 F.3d at 1375; see also Mont. Envtl. Info. Ctr. v. U.S. Off. of Surface Mining, 274 F. Supp. 3d 1074, 1098 (D. Mont. 2017) (Montana), amended in part, adhered to in part sub nom. Mont. Envtl. Info. Ctr. v. U.S. Off. of Surface Mining, CV 15-106-M-DWM, 2017 WL 5047901 (D. Mont. Nov. 3, 2017) (explaining that even assuming an agency “conducted a full and thorough analysis of greenhouse gas emissions from [a project],” such analysis alone does not constitute the required “hard look that ensured both the agency and the public were well-informed”).
- 23 Rehearing Order, 164 FERC ¶ 61,099 at P 39; id. P 42 (concluding that the no-action alternative “would not decrease the ultimate consumption of fossil fuel . . . or reduce GHG emissions,” because shippers are “likely to obtain alternative sources of fuel”); see also id. P 45 (explaining that the Commission is “unable to estimate associated GHG emissions”).
- 24 Rehearing Order, 164 FERC ¶ 61,099 at P 44 n.139 (quoting the Florida Public Service Commission’s order observing that “not constructing the [Sabal Trail pipeline] may result in the use or expansion of existing transportation systems or the creation of new transportation systems. The natural gas shippers may seek other means of transporting the proposed volumes of natural gas (emphasis added)).
- 25 Sabal Trail also rejected the Commission’s perfect substitution theory, 867 F.3d at 1373 (“[T]he record suggests that there is no other viable means of delivering the amount of gas these pipelines propose to deliver.”).
- 26 As the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit explained in Mid States—a case that also involved the downstream GHG emissions from new infrastructure for transporting fossil fuels—when the “nature of the effect” is reasonably foreseeable, but “its extent is not,” an agency may not simply ignore the effect. Mid States Coal. for Progress v. Surface Transp. Bd., 345 F.3d 520, 549 (8th Cir. 2003).
- 27 870 F.3d 1222, 1226 (10th Cir. 2017) (WildEarth Guardians).
- 28 Rehearing Order, 164 FERC ¶ 61,099 at P 44.
- 29 Id. P 43.
- 30 870 F.3d at 1236.
- 31 Sabal Trail, 867 F.3d at 1375.
- 32 Id. The Commission states that the Social Cost of Carbon can play a useful role in rulemaking proceedings, but apparently not in adjudicatory proceedings, such as today’s order. Rehearing Order, 164 FERC ¶ 61,099 at P 35. The Commission cites to comments from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explaining that the Social Cost of Carbon was developed for use in rulemaking proceedings. Id. P 35 n.104. But the fact that the Social Cost of Carbon was developed with an eye toward one type of administrative proceeding does not address the question of whether it can be “a useful measure” in a different type of proceeding. See High Country Conservation Advocates v. U.S. Forest Serv., 52 F. Supp. 3d 1174, 1190 (D. Colo. 2014) (High Country) (noting that the Social Cost of Carbon “was expressly designed to assist agencies in cost-benefit analyses associated with rulemakings, but the EPA has expressed support for its use in other circumstances); id. at 1192 (concluding that the fact that the Social Cost of Carbon was designed for the rulemaking context “do[es] not explain” why it is “inaccurate or not useful” in other contexts, such as in the preparation of an environmental impact statement).
- 33 Rehearing Order, 164 FERC ¶ 61,099 at P 28 n.83 (quoting 40 C.F.R. § 1502.23 (2017)).
- 34 See CEQ, Final Guidance for Federal Departments and Agencies on Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the Effects of Climate Change in National Environmental Policy Act Reviews at 32-33 (Aug. 1, 2016), available at https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/documents/nepa_final_ghg_guidance.pdf. (“[W]hen an agency determines that a monetized assessment of the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions or a monetary cost-benefit analysis is appropriate and relevant to the choice among different alternatives being considered, such analysis may be incorporated by reference or appended to the NEPA document as an aid in evaluating the environmental consequences.” (emphases added) (internal citations omitted)).
- 35 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Comments, Docket No. PL18-1-000, at 4 (June 21, 2018).
- 36 Petro Star Inc. v. FERC, 835 F.3d 97, 108 (D.C. Cir. 2016).
- 37 52 F. Supp. 3d 1174.
- 38 274 F. Supp. 3d 1074.
- 39 High Country, 52 F. Supp. 3d at 1191-93; id. at 1191 (relying on Sierra Club v. Sigler, 695 F.2d 957, 979 (5th Cir. 1983), for the proposition that an “agency choosing to ‘trumpet’ an action’s benefits has a duty to disclose its costs”)).
- 40 Rehearing Order, 164 FERC ¶ 61,099 at PP 32–34.
- 41 See, e.g., Final EIS 3.10; id. 3-202–3-207. In table 3-10.1, the Commission provides a summary with detailed estimates of the income to be earned by individuals employed in both constructing and operating different phases and segments of the proposed pipelines. See also tbl. 3.10.1-8 (summarizing the construction and operational workforce, including both the number of jobs created and the resulting labor income); tbl. 3.10.2-3 (summarizing the “In-State Expenditures on Payroll for the Sabal Trail Project”). Table 3-10.1 also provides detailed estimates of the income earned individuals employed in other jobs that result from, but are not directly related to the pipeline as well as the total value of goods to be consumed in connection with each phase and segment of the project. The Commission also estimates the tax revenue—down to the individual dollar at both the state and county level—derived from the operation and construction of the pipeline. See, e.g., tbl. 3.10.19 (sales taxes), tbl. 3.10.2-4 (ad valorem taxes). Neither the Commission’s suggestion that its analysis of these benefits is “limited” nor its calling them “impacts” rather than “benefits” is consistent with the record or the Commission’s decisionmaking process. Rehearing Order, 164 FERC ¶ 61,099 at P 28 n.84.
- 42 “The critical importance of the subject, however, tells me that a ‘hard look’ has to include a ‘hard look’ at whether this tool, however imprecise it might be, would contribute to a more informed assessment of the impacts than if it were simply ignored.” High Country, 52 F. Supp. 3d at 1193. The point being that NEPA requires an agency to seriously review not just the effects of a major federal action, but also the different ways in which to document and disclose those effects.
- 43 Rehearing Order, 164 FERC ¶ 61,099 at P 35.
- 44 See Public Interest Organization Comments, Docket No. PL18-1-000, at 11 (2018) (“While the relative significance of 20,000 additional tons of carbon dioxide per year versus 2 million additional tons per year may be somewhat challenging to discern, the relative significance of $1 million per year in climate damages versus $100 million per year in climate damages is much easier to discern.”).
- 45 See supra note 41.
- 46 Rehearing Order, 164 FERC ¶ 61,099 at P 37.
- 47 Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC, 163 FERC ¶ 61,197, at 4 (2018) (Glick, Comm’r, dissenting).
- 48 Rehearing Order, 164 FERC ¶ 61,099 at 10 (LaFleur, Comm’r, dissenting).
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