US House bill would speed natural gas pipeline permitting

US Representative Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas) has introduced a bill (HR 1900) that would expedite the permitting of new interstate natural gas pipelines. Such projects require approvals from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) as well as a number of other federal agencies.

To expedite permitting, the bill would require:

  • FERC to approve or deny a pipeline permit application within 12 months
  • All relevant agencies to rule on the permit within 90 days (which may be extended by another 30 days) after FERC completes its environmental review
  • The permit to take effect if  an agency does not issue its determination within 90 days (or 120 days, if the review period is extended)

In recent technical conferences held by FERC on coordination between natural gas and electricity markets, the need for additional pipeline infrastructure was highlighted. HR 1900 could arguably accelerate pipeline infrastructure development and contribute to resolving the issues surrounding the growing reliance on natural gas for power generation, say attorneys Dena Wiggins and Jack Semrani of Ballard Spahr, a national law firm that keeps a close watch on energy-related legislation.

In addition, the dramatic rise in shale gas production has created significant demand for new pipeline infrastructure to transport the gas to the market. This need is becoming more acute over time as shale gas production continues to grow and to place increasing stress on existing infrastructure, adds Wiggins and Semrani.

The natural gas pipeline trade group Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, or INGAA, previously issued a report finding that, although the FERC review of permit applications is effective, other agencies can cause delays in the process. The bill appears to address INGAA’s concerns.

The legislation is supported by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Michigan) and Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-Kentucky). It was co-sponsored by Representative Cory Gardner (R-Colorado), Representative Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), Representative Jim Matheson (D-Utah), and Representative Pete Olson (R-Texas).

 

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