Monkey-Wrenching Natural Gas Pipelines

01 April 2020
Dr. Jeff D. Makholm

In an article in the April 2020 issue of the Wiley journal Natural Gas & Electricity, NERA Managing Director Dr. Jeff D. Makholm notes that we are living in a time of high‐profile litigation regarding what had been, until the era of intense focus on climate change and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, one of the most noncontroversial elements of US interstate natural gas pipeline regulation: the certification of new interstate pipelines. From 1999 until 2017, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved and certificated 400 new interstate natural gas pipeline capacity projects—greatly expanding the nation's interstate pipeline capacity to accommodate new unconventional natural gas fields and a rising demand for the fuel generally, including for new gas‐fired generation that is driving coal from US electricity markets.

Dr. Makholm presents three cases involving appeals to the certifications of new natural gas pipelines: namely, the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline, the Mountain Valley Pipeline, and the Southeast Markets Pipelines. These cases illustrate how the FERC pipelines certification process has been tied up in increasing litigation initiated by parties contending that FERC has not been reliable in tracking climate-change aspects of certification activities, raising issues of land use, agricultural crop loss, and social costs of carbons. While these challenges have made the process to certify new pipelines more expensive, they have not constituted a pathway forward to greater or better policies to deal with GFG emission reductions. As Dr. Makholm notes, it has long been accepted by economists that carbon taxes and cap-and-trade policies are the most direct and efficient means by which to control GHG emissions.

Makholm, Jeff D. (2020, April). “Monkey-Wrenching Natural Gas Pipelines,” 36/9, ©2020 Wiley Periodicals, Inc., a Wiley company.