The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Chairman, Neil Chatterjee, announced last week the delays that result from pipeline protestors are actually slowing down the industry’s attempts to protect the environment. Speaking at an event for members of the natural gas industry, Chatterjee focused on the delays environmental protesters are causing pipeline construction. Protests have stopped work on pipelines around the country over the course of last year, a reality that has delayed the transition to cleaner energy by slowing down the transition to natural gas generators.
Chatterjee said in the past pipeline protests came from local groups with a local interest in keeping the pipelines out of their backyards.
“Now we see well-funded, sophisticated national environmental advocacy organizations who understand how to use all of the levers of federal and state law to frustrate pipeline development,” Chatterjee said. “These groups have good lawyers who can exert pressure on FERC review processes and the legal strategies they employ are clever ones, targeting a variety of avenues including laws such as [the National Environmental Policy Act], [the Endangered Species Act], and the Clean Water Act.”
Such efforts, he continued, force FERC to devote resources to not only responding to legal challenges but working on systematic changes to protect pipeline approvals from future challenges. Already, the permitting process can take two years.
According to Department of Energy Statistics, carbon emissions related to energy generation fell by 12% between 2005 and 2015. Much of the credit to that decrease is given to the transition from coal-fired power plants to natural gas. Ironically, in order to increase the use of more natural gas plants- providers require pipelines that green groups are standing in the way of.