US regulators to consider emissions before approving gas projects

Feb 17 (Reuters) - U.S. energy regulators said on Thursday they will consider the greenhouse gas emissions of natural gas pipelines before approving the projects to build them, a move business interests said could lead to higher prices for the fuel.

The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued an interim greenhouse gas emissions policy that details how it will assess the impacts of natural gas infrastructure projects on climate change in its reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act and the Natural Gas Act. It is the first time FERC has updated its guidance on gas pipelines since 1999.

The policy statement gives a framework to resolve environmental and public interest issues that arise when companies seek to build new natural gas facilities.

The interim policy was approved on a 3-2 vote, with the two Republicans on the five-member panel opposing the move.

FERC Commissioner Allison Clements said in a tweet: "FERC will consider all factors bearing on the public interest, including the impact of natgas projects on the environment, landowners, and environmental justice communities." Clements is one of the three Democrats on the panel.

The Commission is establishing a presumption that proposed projects with emissions equal to 100,000 metric tons per year of carbon dioxide will have a significant impact on climate change, FERC said in a release.

The move was cautiously welcomed by environmental groups.

Environmentalist organization Delaware Riverkeeper said in a statement that it was encouraging to see FERC raising environmental justice impacts in its review process and opening the door to considering induced gas extractions operations.

Though the guidance is subject to revision, FERC will begin applying the framework established in this policy statement in the interim.

Business groups said the policy would lead to delays and higher prices.

"Today's actions unnecessarily add barriers to the transport of this reliable and affordable energy resource and will mean higher prices for domestic energy for consumers and businesses," said Heath Knakmuhs, vice president and policy counsel at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Global Energy Institute.

(This story was refiled to correct date in dateline.)

Reporting by Timothy Gardner and Ashitha Shivaprasad; Editing by Karishma Singh

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