February 6, 2023

Volume XIII, Number 37

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February 03, 2023

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FERC Issues Landmark Changes to Pipeline Approval Process

On February 17th, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC” or the “Commission”) issued updates to its policies by which it determines whether to approve or deny an application to construct interstate natural gas pipelines. The updates are the first revisions to FERC’s policy for certification of interstate natural gas projects in over two decades. These issuances are material to new interstate natural gas pipeline development and construction.

The update includes two components. First, FERC issued an Updated Certificate Policy Statement (PL18-1) (“UPS”), revising how the Commission will evaluate and weigh specified factors by which it makes its determination. Second, the Commission issued an Interim GHG Policy Statement (PL21-3) (“IPS”), which is more technical in nature and provides specific guidance on how the Commission will make determinations about greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions from the proposed project, which are taken into account, among other factors, under the UPS.

The UPS describes how FERC will evaluate and weigh all factors bearing on the public interest in determining whether a new interstate natural gas transportation project is required by public convenience and necessity under the Natural Gas Act (“NGA”). The UPS adds updated and expanded considerations concerning a proposed project’s impacts on customers, landowners, climate, environmental justice communities and other stakeholders. FERC states that it will apply this new UPS to any currently pending applications for certificates.

The IPS explains how FERC will evaluate a proposed project’s impacts on climate change (i.e., GHG emissions). Under the IPS, any project with 100,000 metric tons per year of GHG emissions shall be treated as having a significant impact on climate change. Projects that break the threshold will require an Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”). As part of the GHG analysis, FERC will consider emissions from the construction of the project and may also include those originating from upstream production and downstream combustion. Consequently, it is likely that a vast majority of interstate pipeline projects will require an EIS. FERC is currently seeking comment on the approach to assessing the significance of a proposed project’s contribution to climate change. While this policy is being finalized, the IPS will apply.

As a supplement to this alert, below are links to the UPS and the IPS. 

Updated Pipeline Certificate Policy Statement (PL18-1-000)

Interim Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions Policy Statement (PL21-3-000)

© Steptoe & Johnson PLLC. All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 59

About this Author

Kurt Kreiger, Energy Attorney, Steptoe Johnson Law Firm

Kurt Krieger focuses his practice in the areas of utility regulation and energy law. He has experience representing interstate natural gas pipeline companies, midstream companies, and gas and electric utilities before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and state and commonwealth public service (or utility) commissions.  His experience includes counseling gas and electric companies on economic, safety and facility siting regulation, and counseling and drafting commercial agreements pertaining to energy-related transactions.


(304) 353-8124
Kevin W. Hivick Jr. Associate Attorney West Virginia Charleston Enery Natural Resources Law Steptoe & Johnson PLLC

Kevin Hivick focuses his practice in the areas of transactional and regulatory law with an emphasis on energy and natural resources. Prior to becoming an attorney, Kevin spent several years working in federal regulation with the United States Department of Agriculture. There, he witnessed firsthand the unique legal challenges facing businesses both large and small. Kevin also has a strong dedication to community service, having served as a firefighter in a rural fire district for years. He brings this same sense of duty and service to his clients every day.