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In a 2-1 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission failed properly quantify greenhouse gas emissions linked to a pipeline expansion project in the southeastern U.S.

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was originally an agency created to coordinate hydroelectric projects.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is an independent agency that regulates the interstate transmission of natural gas, oil, and electricity, and regulates natural gas and hydropower projects. It also oversees wholesale electricity markets, to insure a reliable and affordable power grid.

Its predecessor, the Federal Power Commission (FPC), was created in 1920 to coordinate federal hydroelectric projects. Over the years, the FPC’s mandate grew to include oversight of electricity and natural gas. In response to the energy crisis, Congress reorganized the FPC as FERC, with a mandate to increase access to energy.

FERC is led by a five-member commission, comprised of up to five commissioners appointed by the President of the United States, with the advice and consent of the Senate. Commissioners serve five-year terms, and have an equal vote on regulatory matters.

FERC has come under criticism for its approval process for natural gas pipelines

Critics have long called FERC a “rubber stamp” for the pipeline industry because it approves virtually every pipeline application that comes before it. Claims of overbuilding in the pipeline industry were fueled in November when a report for the Natural Resources Defense Council said that over the last 20 years, FERC has approved more than twice as much natural gas pipeline capacity than gas consumed in 2016.

FERC has also weighed in on controversial plans to bail out coal and nuclear plants from financial insolvency. The commission voted unanimously to terminate a Department of Energy proposal to guarantee profits for power plants that can store 90 days of fuel on-site. Only coal and nuclear plants can do that.

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