Subcommittee Reviews Legislation to Expedite Natural Gas Pipeline Permits and Spur Job Growth

July 9, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – The Subcommittee on Energy and Power, chaired by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), today held a hearing to discuss H.R. 1900, the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act. The bipartisan legislation, authored by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), is a commonsense solution to expedite and modernize the federal review process for natural gas pipeline permits.

As America’s natural gas production continues to increase, expanded pipeline infrastructure is needed to deliver these growing gas supplies to markets and consumers. The current regulatory process often results in delays due to the multiple permits required, and a recent GAO report found the pipeline permitting process to be “complex.” H.R. 1900 seeks to bring regulatory certainty to the process by setting firm timelines for agency review. Specifically, the legislation requires the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to approve or deny a pipeline certificate within 12 months after notice that an application has been filed. The legislation would also codify FERC’s 90-day deadline for other relevant agencies to approve or deny a permit application or the permit shall become effective.

“Because of the combination of increased production and demand for natural gas, it is absolutely vital that the law for natural gas pipelines keep up with the capacity to get this stuff out of the ground and into the homes of the consumers who need it,” said Pompeo. “This is a commonsense reform that will help Americans.”

FERC Commissioner Philip Moeller testified that the timeline set forth in the legislation “adds an admirable level of accountability for the resource agencies involved in our process.” Moeller also stated that the Commission believes the 12-month timeline for review is “achievable.”

David Markarian, Vice President of Government Affairs for NextEra Energy, explained how current permitting delays are inhibiting job creation and economic growth and the ability to deliver reliable natural gas supplies to customers. “Delays in the pipeline permitting process have the potential to inhibit the transportation of this integral energy source, directly impacting our customers, our country, and our economy. To put it simply, if we can’t get gas to where we need it, everybody loses,” Markarian. “To prevent this, as the quantity and demand of natural gas proves more vital to our nation, economy, and people, NextEra Energy believes that it is critically important that we have timely consideration of the licenses, permits and approvals needed under federal law for pipeline infrastructure projects.”

Despite attempts to strengthen and streamline the permitting process in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT), delays still persist. A recent report by the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA) found that delays of more than 90 days have risen 28 percent after EPACT permitting reforms, while delays of 180 days or more have risen 20 percent. President and CEO of INGAA Donald Santa endorsed H.R. 1900 as a workable solution to address these delays and restore certainty to the process, expressing, “Clear deadlines would bring action and accountability to all permitting agencies, and improve what is already a good process. H.R. 1900 provides that accountability.”

“The opportunities are great, but they could be stalled or even lost for good unless the pipelines start getting built,” said full Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). “This legislation helps provide the certainty to ensure these critical infrastructure projects get in the ground without unnecessary delay while at the same time making sure they are protective of safety and the environment.”

The Energy and Power Subcommittee will vote on the legislation tomorrow. The subcommittee will convene for opening statements today at 4:00 p.m. and reconvene on Wednesday to consider the legislation. More information is available HERE.

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