Chairs Rodgers, Duncan: Vague CEQ Guidance Cannot be an Excuse to Abandon FERC’s Core Mission

Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Energy, Climate, & Grid Security Subcommittee Chair Jeff Duncan (R-SC) sent a letter yesterday to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Acting Chairman and Commissioners demanding to know how they plan to incorporate guidance from the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) in a way that does not jeopardize American energy security.  

Excerpts and highlights from the letter: 

“On January 9, 2023, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued interim guidance entitled ‘National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Guidance on Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Climate Change.’ 

“The stated goal of this guidance is to ‘assist Federal agencies in their consideration of the effects of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate change when evaluating proposed major Federal actions in accordance with NEPA...’ CEQ’s interim guidance took effect immediately for relevant agencies, including the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or ‘Commission’). This vague guidance raises many concerns regarding how the Commission will follow its authorizing statutes in the issuance of permits for both natural gas and electric transmission infrastructure. 

“While we understand this interim guidance is subject to change until the rule is finalized, we write to reiterate that NEPA, and especially the CEQ guidance, does not supplant the Commission’s core statutes for siting or permitting natural gas or electric transmission projects. Commissioner Christie pointed out in his dissent to the interim policy statement, entitled ‘Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Natural Gas Infrastructure Project Reviews,’ that the Commission’s own regulations implementing NEPA reflect that very fact, ‘the Commission will comply with the regulations of the CEQ except where those regulations are inconsistent with the statutory requirements of the Commission.’ As such, we request that each of you answer the below questions no later than March 30, 2023. 

  1. Is it your opinion that the CEQ guidance requires the Commission to quantify upstream and downstream emissions from natural gas projects? If so, how will the Commission apply this in its regulations? 
  2. Is the CEQ guidance consistent with facilitating the orderly development of plentiful supplies of natural gas at reasonable prices, as is the intent of the Natural Gas Act? If so, please elaborate. If not, how can the Commission legally implement the guidance? 
  3. Does the Commission intend to revise and reissue its natural gas policy statements (Docket Nos. PL21-3-000 and PL18-1-000) in order to incorporate this CEQ guidance? Please explain. 
  4. Does the Commission plan to undertake an analysis or solicit public feedback on how implementing this CEQ guidance could affect the price or availability of natural gas and electricity, or the effect on the economy as a whole?” 

CLICK HERE to read the full letter. 

NOTE: Chairs Rodgers and Duncan sent a letter to FERC on March 3, 2023, demanding they explain why the commission has abandoned its core mission to help deliver abundant, reliable, and affordable energy for Americans. The letter specifically referenced examples when FERC has appeared to make decisions beyond its statutory authority in order to advance President Joe Biden and the Democrats’ rush-to-green agenda. CLICK HERE to read more.