U.S. Energy Regulator Still Advancing Obama-Era Climate Guidance

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  • Energy agency adds climate climate to manual for companies
  • Obama administration had asked agencies to consider climate

In what appeared to be a belated adoption of an Obama-era directive, the U.S. energy agency responsible for approving multibillion-dollar natural gas pipeline projects has directed companies to start disclosing potential climate change impacts.

On Wednesday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission posted a new manual on environmental reporting, updating its guidance for the first time since 2002. The two-volume, 470-page handbook advises project developers to include in their applications potential greenhouse-gas emissions, a cause of global warming that President Barack Obama said the agency should start taking into account in reviews. A previous version of the manual doesn’t mentioned climate change.

The guidance comes just in time for President Donald Trump to potentially kill it. Trump has promised to roll back the environmental and climate policies imposed by his predecessor. Both he and newly appointed Environmental Protection Agency Chief Scott Pruitt have questioned the science behind global warming and whether humans are to blame. 

The timing of the revised manual has “no special significance” and was part of a “very large, comprehensive, and detailed effort” by the energy commission’s staff that was just recently finalized, agency spokeswoman Tamara Young-Allen said Wednesday. The goal is to improve the “overall quality and consistency” of information submitted by project developers, she said.

Young-Allen declined to comment on whether the energy commission will have to amend its guidance yet again under the new administration.

Guidance Only

The manual recommends that a developer assess its project’s resilience to hazards associated with climate change, such as storm surges and rising sea levels. The agency emphasized that the book is guidance only and “imposes no new legal obligations.”

That’s consistent with a directive issued by the Obama administration in August, asking federal agencies to incorporate climate change impacts into their environmental reviews.

The energy commission listed information in its new manual that’s often missing from project applications, including local climate information, air quality modeling and data on emissions from pipelines. None of those were mentioned in the previous version.