By Mary-Kaitlin E. RigneyAm. U. L. Rev. 1465 (2015)

Technological advancement in drilling techniques, primarily hydraulic fracturing, has provided access to previously unreachable natural gas reserves. Much of this increase in natural gas production is derived from the Marcellus Shale, a shale formation that spans Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New York. This surge in natural gas production has prompted natural gas pipeline companies to upgrade their pipeline networks. Pipeline companies must apply for certificates of public convenience and necessity from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and, if approved, perform an environmental evaluation, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In examining the environmental impacts of the pipeline project, pipeline companies must be careful not to impermissibly segment the project into component parts, thereby failing to consider a proposed project’s full range of environmental impacts. This is referred to as the rule against segmentation, developed by courts to ensure that companies consider the full range of environmental consequences of proposed projects. The D.C. Circuit recently reviewed the scope of a pipeline project’s environmental assessment in Delaware Riverkeeper Network v. FERC, holding that the FERC impermissibly segmented four pipeline upgrade projects by failing to consider their impacts in one environmental assessment. This Comment analyzes the D.C. Circuit’s decision in Delaware Riverkeeper Network v. FERC and argues that the court improperly applied NEPA’s rule against segmentation. The precedent established from the D.C. Circuit’s decision will cause even further delays in the pipeline permitting process and will hinder the United States’s ability to utilize its supply of natural gas.

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