Industry observers are concerned that the recent court ruling that orders federal regulators to assess the downstream emission impact of natural gas pipeline projects could set a troubling precedent, even if it’s too early to call the decision a game-changer.

“[The decision] is extremely important because it has the potential effect on the timeliness of regulatory review, which is crucial to the viability of any of these projects,” Doug Pedigo, Houston-based partner with Thompson & Knight who regularly counsel carriers and shippers in connection with large-scale infrastructure projects, told Hart Energy. 

A three-judge panel of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals on Aug. 22 voted 2-1 in favor of the Sierra Club and Florida landowners in its suit against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), ruling that the commission failed to adequately weigh the impact of greenhouse gas emissions that will result when utilities burn the fuel. The project in question is the Southeast Market Pipelines Project, which includes the Sabal Trail, Hillabee Expansion and Florida Southeast Connection pipelines.