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10 states ask energy regulators to postpone pipeline approvals amid pandemic

10 states ask energy regulators to postpone pipeline approvals amid pandemic
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Ten states and Washington, D.C., are asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to postpone its approvals of any new fossil fuel infrastructure including natural gas pipelines amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

In a letter to FERC Chairman Neil ChatterjeeIndranil (Neil) ChatterjeeOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Environmentalists sound alarm over Barrett's climate change comments |  Energy regulators signal support for carbon pricing in electricity markets| Methane emissions up in 2020 amid turbulent year for oil and gas Energy regulators signal support for carbon pricing in electricity markets OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Climate change a factor in most of the 7,000 natural disasters over last 20 years: UN report | Contentious pipeline can resume construction, regulators decide | California investigators seize PG&E equipment MORE on Thursday, attorneys general from the states and district argued that waiting to approve new and pending infrastructure is necessary to preserve the due process rights of those who might be affected. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has imposed even greater burdens on communities attempting to organize their interests and participate in Commission proceedings,” they wrote.  

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“The Commission should account for the unprecedented hardships the pandemic has imposed on citizens and postpone any approvals of permanent gas infrastructure until those affected by its decisions can once again focus on these matters,” they added. 

In a statement to The Hill, Chatterjee said that “we will be responding in due course” to the correspondence. 

It follows a similar ask last month from nearly 30 House Democrats, who argued that a pause was necessary “to protect the public health, our environment, and the American people’s confidence in the integrity of governmental administrative and legal proceedings.”

In a statement at the time, Chatterjee said that  the country’s infrastructure should try to be prepared for a return to normalcy. 

"It's imperative that the Commission continue to operate as close to normal as possible so that the industries we regulate are well-positioned to contribute to the nation's economic recovery when we all return to work,” he said. 

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FERC regulates interstate transmission of natural gas, oil and electricity as well as natural gas and hydropower projects.

The commission has recently come under separate scrutiny from lawmakers after a House probe found that over the past 12 years, when landowners have sought to appeal FERC’s decision to give companies eminent domain over their property, their appeals were ultimately denied every time. 

Meanwhile, Democrats and environmentalists have also pushed for pauses in other government activity such as environmental rule-making during the virus outbreak.