Before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission can approve a new pipeline it must engage in environmental review not just of the impact of the pipeline itself on its surroundings, but of the later carbon emissions when end users burn the gas it carries. So ruled the D.C. Circuit August 24 in Sierra Club v. FERC. [Emily Flitter/Reuters, Timothy Cama/The Hill, Pace Law] Judge Janice Rogers Brown dissented in relevant part, noting that FERC’s regulatory authority in this instance does not extend to later decisions about use:
Case law is clear: When an agency “‘has no ability to prevent a certain effect due to’ [its] ‘limited statutory authority over the relevant action,’ then that action ‘cannot be considered a legally relevant cause’” of an indirect environmental effect under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”).
One wonders whether review of the siting of new supermarkets will someday need to include the environmental impacts expected to follow after local residents consume food sold there.