Fracked Gas Pipelines: Good News About Bad News

In late 2017, Jami Willard of Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, discovered that polluting corporations wanted to run a fracked gas pipeline through her family farm. Jami had heard about how dirty and dangerous these pipelines were and how they could ruin property values and soil quality -- big issues for a farmer. But Jami’s concerns were ignored because the developers of the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline already had permission to take her family’s land and put the pipeline right through it. They could do that because as soon as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) rubber-stamped the pipeline, the company could take Jami to court and take her land through the power of eminent domain.

Jami is not alone -- homes and livelihoods across the country are threatened by dirty, dangerous pipelines that aren’t even necessary. These pipelines are being built so polluting corporations can make enormous amounts of money off them, regardless of whether they are actually needed or  whther they are the least-cost choice for meeting our energy needs. To make matters worse, once in the ground, these pipelines are supposed to operate for decades, during which time they pose a continuous threat to our health, safety, and climate.

So what can we do to stop these gas pipelines?  FERC is reviewing how it approves pipelines. Together, we can tell the commission to fix its broken pipeline-review process. These reviews should account for the wide-ranging consequences of pipeline projects, provide ample opportunities for public input, and ensure that demand for gas isn’t being inflated.

We are asking FERC to:

  • Determine whether or not a pipeline is truly necessary before approving the project. With flattening demand and abundant clean, affordable, renewable energy alternatives, we don’t need more pipelines, and we certainly shouldn’t be building any that are paid for by customers who have no choice in their utility provider.

  • Look at all the relevant factors when evaluating pipelines and don’t rely on the word of pipeline companies to determine project demand. Because companies can make contracts with their own subsidiaries, the presence of contracts for pipeline capacity is not an accurate reflection of pipeline demand. FERC should also look at environmental impacts, underutilized existing pipeline capacity, and alternative, cleaner energy resources before locking us into decades of dependence on more fracked gas.

  • Fully evaluate climate pollution and other environmental impacts. FERC’s current approach discounts environmental impacts and doesn’t consider the effects of greenhouse gases produced by using fracked gas for fuel, even though it has the tools to measure these effects.

  • Ensure the public has a voice. FERC should ensure that every affected person is heard by increasing transparency, building public confidence through a Public Participation Office, and incorporating the voices of environmental justice and tribal communities.

Some background: The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is the agency tasked with deciding whether it is in the public interest to build and operate fracked gas pipelines, but instead FERC has been too much of a rubber-stamper for the gas industry, having only rejected two out of hundreds of proposed pipelines in more than two decades. This is a serious problem because fracked gas has been linked to breathing problems, premature births, and cancer. Like coal and oil, gas is a dirty fossil fuel that contributes to the climate change that causes stronger hurricanes, severe droughts, and terrible flooding. In fact, during its first 20 years in the atmosphere, the methane in fracked gas is 87 times worse for trapping heat and causing climate change than carbon dioxide is.

In recent years, polluting corporations have pushed new pipelines at a frenetic pace, which industry spokespeople readily admit will lead to overbuild. But the gas industry is rushing to build more pipelines anyway, because it can make billions of dollars by passing pipeline costs on to the public through electric bills and other means. For example, the companies behind the Atlantic Coast pipeline made deals with each other to create the illusion of market demand-- while consumers paid the price. As if that weren't bad enough, the corporations making money off of these pipelines are doing it by taking people’s land -- a process known as condemnation or eminent domain.

Contrary to claims by the gas industry, expert analysis shows that we’re currently over-supplying gas and don’t need more. Further pipeline expansion commits billions of dollars into projects that take decades to pay back, even though those projects may become obsolete in just a few years. This is profoundly unwise. At a time when clean, renewable energy is already affordable and abundant, there is no need to lock us into dirty fuels that threaten our health, climate, and communities.

FERC recently began  to review its pipeline approval procedures for the first time since 1999 and asked the public to weigh in. Visit and tell FERC to stop giving polluting corporations a free pass on fracked gas pipelines, because locking us into more climate-disrupting fracked gas makes no sense when clean, renewable energy is affordable and abundant.

It’s time to fix FERC pipeline reviews!