By Robert Bradley Jr. — February 3, 2022
“[FERC] staff have determined that approval of the Project would not result in significant environmental impacts, with the exception of greenhouse gas emissions…. we are unable to come to a conclusion regarding the significance of the Project’s contribution to climate change.” (FERC, June 2021)
“N.Y. utilities: FERC delays could jeopardize gas system,” read a headline earlier this week at EnergyWire, a publication of E&E News. “Two New York utility giants last week urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to ‘promptly’ approve a natural gas project proposed nearly two years ago, fueling a debate over the consideration of greenhouse gas emissions against other factors.” The article continued:
Although changes to the policy statement have not been finalized, the gas industry and Republican members of the commission have accused the agency of delaying project approvals since the inquiry was reopened last February. At a virtual event earlier this month hosted by the U.S. Energy Association, for example, Amy Andryszak, president and CEO of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, charged that FERC’s gas reviews had “slowed significantly.”
“All of these send signals to the market that discourage domestic production of natural gas and domestic infrastructure investments,” Andryszak said during the event.
In the case of Enhancement by Compression, further “delays” by FERC could jeopardize the reliability of the New York gas system, the utility companies each said in comments.
“[This] Commission should recognize National Grid’s need to provide safe and adequate service. Given the particular facts of this proceeding — i.e., a limited compression project that is needed to reliably serve customer demand — the Commission should reject any attempt to delay issuance of the certificate,” National Grid wrote.
Iroquois Gas Transmission operates a natural gas pipeline system serving New York and Connecticut from Waddington on the St. Lawrence River to Hunts Point in New York City. Back in 2019, Iroquois proposed to enhance compression to increase natural gas deliveries by 125 MMcf/d to gas-needy areas by winter 2023/24. (Further information on the project can be found here.)
Buyers and seller have agreed to the project. That should have been enough for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to approve the project after cursory review.
Application submitted, the project was ripe for approval in early 2021 and should be well under construction. But … Biden was elected and energy further politicized.
Project sponsor Iroquois has summarized the straightforward benefits of expanding compressor capacity to increase deliveries to New York State and Connecticut by 125 MMcf/d.
- Greater supply to NYC will help alleviate the need for gas moratoriums and benefit economic development
- Increased supply facilitates conversions from oil heat to gas heat while supplying new construction with natural gas instead of #2 fuel oil
- Supports the intermittency of renewable energy sources
- Complements the state’s zero-carbon initiatives and pursuit of off-shore wind resources
- Reduces price volatility and lowers fuel prices for gas and electric utilities
- Enhances electric grid reliability and resiliency with additional compression that enables fast start and quick ramping during peak periods
- Additional capacity with no new pipeline
- Reduction in life cycle GHG emissions and air pollution
- Increased property tax revenue for host communities
- Construction jobs and boost to local economy during construction
- Project related Community Grants
In FERC’s draft Environmental Impact Statement issued in June 2021, FERC stated:
Based on the environmental analysis in the EA and in this EIS, staff have
determined that approval of the Project would not result in significant environmental impacts, with the exception of greenhouse gas emissions.
Although we acknowledge the Project’s direct and downstream emissions would increase the atmospheric concentration of GHGs, in combination with past and future emissions from all other sources, and would contribute to climate change, we are unable to come to a conclusion regarding the significance of the Project’s contribution to climate change.
In accordance with NEPA and Commission policy, we evaluated alternatives to the Project to determine whether they would be reasonable and environmentally preferable to the proposed action. These alternatives included the no-action alternative, system alternatives, fuel alternatives, and location alternatives for the proposed new facilities. Although all of the alternatives we evaluated appear to be technically feasible, none provide a significant environmental advantage over the Project design. Therefore, we conclude that the Project, as modified by our recommendations in section E of this EIS, is the preferred alternative to meet Project objectives.
The old Federal Power Commission once hampered interstate natural gas transmission by giving standing to fuel oil and coal; FERC today is siding with anti-energy environmentalists that want less affordable, less reliable fossil fuels.
Voter-citizens will have their say come this November and beyond. The war on natural gas should be suspended. It is not a “bridge fuel” but a destination fuel that is still young in the modern energy age.