FERC recently published a revised draft Guidance Manual for Environmental Report Preparation for review and public comment.  The revised Guidance Manual updates FERC’s 2002 guidance manual on environmental report preparation for projects seeking FERC authorization under the Natural Gas Act (NGA), supplementing the previous guidance as well as adding new sections explaining requirements for environmental report preparation.  This substantial enhancement of the Commission’s 2002 guidance likely reflects increased scrutiny by environmental groups and others of FERC’s compliance with its NEPA obligations in authorizing natural gas and LNG projects.

The revised draft Guidance Manual was issued in two volumes:  Volume 1 concerns preparation of environmental reports for natural gas projects and jurisdictional LNG facilities; Volume 2 is provides supplemental compliance information specific to LNG facilities.  These revisions and additions are significant, expanding the prior Manual by nearly 300 pages.  Comments on the revised guidance are due by January 19, 2016.

By way of background, applicants for FERC authorizations required under the NGA must prepare and submit environmental reports (also known as “resource reports”), as required under FERC regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  See 18 C.F.R. Part 157.14(a)(6-a) (requiring environmental reports as specified in 18 C.F.R. Parts 380.3 and 380.12 to be submitted as exhibits to NGA applications).  FERC issued a guidance manual in 2002, intended to guide applicants in preparing this documentation, in order to “streamline” the NEPA environmental review process and to improve overall quality and consistency of the environmental documents submitted by applicants.

The revised draft Guidance Manual expands significantly upon the guidance provided in the 2002 version, going from a 150-page single volume document to two volumes totaling 442 pages.  The revision provides supplemental detail on many of the requirements covered in the 2002 guidance manual (including guidance on providing information about greenhouse gas emissions from proposed facilities) but also adds new information on stakeholder outreach, FERC’s pre-filing process, “key principles” of report preparation, and documentation of cumulative impacts associated with a proposed project.

Instructions for providing comments on the revised Guidance Manual are available here.