A Breakdown of the Respective Roles that FERC, EPA, and State Regulators Play to Support a Cleaner & More Reliable Electric Grid
Multiple federal and state regulators must coordinate their efforts to ensure electric grid reliability, particularly during a period of major transition, and it is important to understand what role each of them plays. This report reviews the respective roles of FERC, RTOs/ISOs, other transmission operators, state public utility commissions, and state environmental regulators. EPA’s duty to reduce GHG emissions that endanger public health and FERC’s duty to steward grid reliability will require them to coordinate each other’s respective expertise as they work with RTOs/ISOs, state regulators, and utilities to implement EPA rules.
Gas provides nearly a quarter of the world’s total energy supply. As part of that supply chain, gas is shipped between continents in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG). The United States is now the world’s largest LNG exporter following a surge in gas exports since 2016, but these exports have generated controversy due to their climate effects.This policy brief provides an analysis to support an effort to balance the full range of impacts from LNG exports. Using DOE’s own published studies, we compare the climate cost per unit of LNG export to the economic benefit (measured using consumer welfare). We find that climate costs likely exceed economic benefits. While the precise difference depends on several factors, gross climate damages greatly exceed economic benefits under all scenarios evaluated. These findings provide useful insights as DOE prepares to re-evaluate the LNG export program.
Published in the Columbia Journal of Environmental Law
Natural gas plays an outsized role in the U.S. economy. Under the Natural Gas Act, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or the Commission) is responsible for overseeing the orderly development of interstate natural gas pipelines, which facilitate the transmission of natural gas throughout the country. FERC can approve the pipeline only if it finds that it is required by the “public convenience and necessity.” Although FERC should consider a range of factors to determine whether a pipeline will serve the public interest, in practice, it looks primarily to the contracts between a developer and its customers for the purchase of pipeline capacity. If a developer can demonstrate that there is a party willing to pay to use its pipeline, FERC rarely asks questions and almost always finds “public” need. This pipeline-by-pipeline approach to natural gas transmission build-out leads to the construction of unnecessary, underused pipelines, which in turn increases ratepayer costs and decreases consumer welfare. Climate change further increases the risk that pipelines will become obsolete as cities and states move toward electrification. Relying on economic theory, legal history, and policy analysis, we make the case in this paper—pulished in the Columbia Journal of Environmental Law— for FERC’s adoption of regional gas transmission planning.
Developing a Baseline Assessment of Barriers and Opportunities
Combatting climate change will require major transitions in the energy sector. In the United States, state-level entities like public utility commissions play a key role in this transition. Commissions help decide where and when clean energy displaces fossil-fuel combustion, and how costs associated with energy system investments are passed on to consumers, so their actions can affect emissions outcomes as well as the health, energy, environmental, and affordability burdens faced by disadvantaged communities. Although many Commission processes incorporate some form of stakeholder input or participation, it is often difficult for the public to participate due to the technical and complex nature of these proceedings. These challenges present a procedural justice issue. In this report, we reviewed a range of practices for enhancing procedural justice at Commissions in nine states. This review was based on a structured survey of Commissions’ websites, resources available to prospective participants, and relevant statutes and regulations.
The Oil and Gas Industry’s Retreat from the Broad Federal Permitting Authority It Long Embraced
What's the function of oil and gas permitting agencies? Despite broad statutory grants to federal agencies, oil and gas companies increasingly argue that the role of those agencies is to promote development regardless of whether it is socially desirable. But this “Narrow Reinterpretation,” in addition to lacking textual support, is at odds with longstanding practice. What changed? Not the governing statutes, at least not in pertinent part. But the energy sector has: renewable sources have replaced coal as the primary competitors to oil and gas.
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