National Environmental Policy Act and Natural Gas Pipelines

National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) requires federal agencies to integrate environmental values into their decision-making processes by considering the environmental impacts of their proposed actions and reasonable alternatives to those actions.

Every major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment a detailed statement (environmental impact statement or EIS) of the environmental impact of the proposed action, any adverse environmental effects which cannot be avoided should the proposal be implemented, and alternatives to the proposed action. The EPA maintains a database of environement impact statements on its website.

  • If a proposed interstate pipeline activity will significantly impact the human environment, FERC may directly proceed to prepare an EIS. 
  • If FERC may also issue an environmental assessment (EA), when it is unsure of whether there are significant environmental impacts associated with the proposed activity.  This briefly provides evidence and analysis for determining whether an EIS is necessary. 
  • If the proposed action will not have a significant effect on the human environment, FERC will issue a document, known as a “finding of no significant impact,” presenting the reasons why the finding. 
  • FERC has determined that certain activities do not have a significant effect on the human environment and therefore are categorically excluded from the detailed environmental analysis required by NEPA.  18 C.F.R. §§ 380.2, 380.4. 

After preparing a draft environmental impact statement and before preparing a final environmental impact statement, FERC will seek comments from other agencies with jurisdiction over the proposed project, the applicant and the public.  An overview of the process is available on the FERC website.  40 C.F.R. § 1503.1.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 amended the NGA to provide that FERC shall act as the lead agency for purposes of complying with NEPA with respect to an application for a certificate of public convenience and necessity under Section 7 of the Natural Gas Act (NGA).  15 U.S.C. § 717n(b)(1).  As the lead agency, FERC is to supervise the preparation of the environmental impact statement if more than one federal agency is involved in the same action.  40 C.F.R. § 1501.5(a).