Lawmakers looking to expedite construction of new gas pipelines


Approval of new gas pipelines would be subject to firm time limits under a new bill being considered by the U.S. House of Representatives.

Earlier this month, U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo introduced a bill that would amend the Natural Gas Act of 1938 by setting firm time limits for federal regulatory agencies charged with completing the permitting and approval process for new natural gas pipelines.

Specifically, HR 1900—the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act—would require the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to approve or deny new gas pipeline projects within 12 months after giving a public notice of an application. Furthermore, after the final environmental document relating to a particular project was issued by the commission, any other agency responsible for permitting, licensing or otherwise approving the siting, construction, expansion or operation of a gas pipeline would have 90 days to make a definitive decision.

Agencies covered by the 90-day time limit would be eligible to request an additional 30 days if faced with unforeseen circumstances beyond the control of their personnel. However, under the proposed law, any permit, license or approval that was not issued within the set time period would go into effect automatically.

In a press release discussing his proposal, Pompeo asserted that it is increasingly necessary to modernize the permitting process "as natural gas becomes more prevalent as a source of electricity generation."

The Kansas Republican also emphasized the fact that one of the bill's cosponsors, Jim Matheson of Utah, is a Democrat.

"This bipartisan piece of legislation makes common sense reforms to the natural gas pipeline permitting process," Pompeo said.

Other notable sponsors of the bill include House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton and Ed Whitfield, who chairs the Energy and Power Subcommittee.

Bill receives backing of industry group

Donald F. Santa, president of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA), has released a statement in support of the pipeline permitting legislation, saying that his organization appreciates Pompeo's "interest in improving the process for permitting interstate natural gas pipelines."

Santa called the bill's content "consistent with the principal recommendation" put forward in a 2012 report from his organization that addressed issues with the pipeline permitting process. He explained that although FERC's review process is seen as relatively effective, the commission does not have sufficient authority to enforce permitting deadlines that apply to other regulatory bodies involved in the approval of new projects.

"The lack of enforceable permitting deadlines increasingly is causing pipeline project delays," Santa said. "Providing clear permitting deadline authority will add certainty to the process and encourage timely decision-making."

Increase in transportation capacity will expand opportunities for producers

As Santa noted, implementing a more structured system for approving new pipeline projects would aid companies in the industry by providing more certainty. However, producers will still need to take action on their end in order to capitalize on the opportunities that will be created by a more robust pipeline network.

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