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Court ruling on Agawam gas project sets legal precedent for climate-related emissions

A residential natural gas meter in Massachusetts.
Nancy Eve Cohen
A residential natural gas meter in Massachusetts.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit has ruled in favor of part of an appeal of a natural gas project that was approved in Agawam, Massachusetts.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, approved a project to build 2.1 miles of new natural gas pipeline and a bigger compressor to replace two smaller ones.

According to court documents, the company said the upgrade would increase reliability, efficiency and capacity to meet demand.

FERC certified the project in 2019, deciding it "would have no significant environmental impact."

But two environmental groups appealed.

Now the court has ruled that FERC's analysis is deficient.

Adam Carlesco, attorney with Food & Water Watch, said the ruling requires FERC to reassess and consider greenhouse gas emissions from smaller infrastructure, like a compressor.

"What they really need to be looking at is how much more gas is going to be moving through those pipelines because of this infrastructure upgrade," Carlesco said.

Carlesco said the ruling sets a legal precedent so regulators can't ignore greenhouse gas emissions from both expanding capacity of gas infrastructure, and residential and commercial use.

FERC declined to comment.

Nancy Eve Cohen is a senior reporter focusing on Berkshire County. Previously she served as the editor of the Northeast Environmental Hub, a collaborative of public radio stations. Earlier in her career she was the Midwest editor for NPR in Washington, D.C. Before working in radio, she recorded sound as part of a camera crew for network television news, with assignments in Russia, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba and in Sarajevo during the war in 1992.
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