A new report co-authored by SEI Senior Scientist Peter Erickson was covered in The Washington Post’s daily Climate 202 newsletter , shedding light on the flaws inherent in the US’ environmental review of new fossil fuel infrastructure, while proposing a new way forward.

The report grew out of Erickson’s work on legal cases on how to analyse greenhouse gas emissions from new fossil fuel infrastructure. In the course of that work, Erickson and EarthJustice attorney Jan Hasselman came to believe there is likely a better and potentially simpler way to analyse such greenhouse gas emissions.

In the report, they propose three principles that they believe could improve the current, flawed practices commonly employed:

  • Focus on the relatively uncontroversial life-cycle emissions associated with fossil fuels handled by proposed projects, not on the much-more-speculative “net” emissions relative to a baseline, business-as-usual case.
  • Apply a “climate test”, which would gauge whether the proposed project is consistent with national climate commitments, such as net zero emissions by mid-century, as included in the Paris Agreement.
  • Call out the “lock in” factor, meaning identify the extent to which a proposed project would be difficult or impossible to decarbonize or retire later, thus locking in carbon dioxide emissions.

By applying these principles, the authors believe that federal agencies could better meet legal obligations, such as those which caused recent US court cases striking down new fossil fuel infrastructure (some of which cited SEI research) while also helping to align new energy infrastructure with climate goals.

Read the full report here .