FERC must be more ‘friendly’ to landowners: Chatterjee

Neil Chatterjee, one of three Republican commissioners on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said last week the commission should be more “friendly” to landowners as it evaluates its policies on reviewing applications for interstate pipelines.

FERC announced in December it would take a “fresh look” at the way it approves natural gas pipelines amid growing clashes between environmental groups and the agency over climate change, Kallanish Energy reports.

The pipeline review will examine its 1999 policy statement on how it issues permits for interstate natural gas pipelines, the Washington Examiner newspaper reported.

“I want to find ways to improve the process to make FERC more friendly so landowners feel they can engage with us,” Chatterjee said at an event hosted by the Columbia Center on Global Energy Policy.

“I want to make sure steps are taken, whether it’s rerouting, to make sure landowner rights are protected.”

Chatterjee defended FERC against accusations from environmental groups that it’s rubberstamping pipelines. He said FERC is constrained by laws passed by Congress, the Examiner reported.

“It is unfair to say we approve every project,” said Chatterjee, a former adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who was appointed to FERC by President Trump. “We do have a very rigorous and robust process. People don’t see when projects are submitted and withdrawn.”

Chatterjee added the FERC commissioners care about health impacts, and he is very sensitive to these concerns and considerations.

“If there are going to be changes to the scope of our review, those need to be statutory,” he said, the Examiner reported.

A group of environmental groups led by the Sierra Club successfully sued FERC to force the agency to examine the effects of its pipelines on climate change.

Until the court ruling, FERC had examined the environmental impacts of building the pipelines to ship natural gas, not the effects of using the fuel.

Chatterjee said he is a believer in man-made climate change and thinks U.S. policymakers have a responsibility to “mitigate” it, but added FERC still has limited jurisdiction over the issue.

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