05.06.15

Cassidy, Capito, Heitkamp Introduce Bill to Modernize Pipeline Approvals

WASHINGTON— U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) joined Senators Shelley Moore-Capito (R-WV) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) to introduce legislation to streamline and modernize the pipeline approval process.

America’s oil and natural gas production is increasing, yet there is a shortage of pipelines to support moving these natural resources to areas of high demand. The current permitting process for pipelines often takes months or years. The slow and uncertain regulatory approval process delays construction, which delays manufacturing projects and hurts families and businesses that rely on affordable energy.

“Domestic energy production is accelerating, but the approval process to build the infrastructure to move this energy is stuck in neutral,” said Sen. Cassidy. “Streamlining the approval process saves taxpayer money and ensures Americans have access to reliable energy to fuel their cars, heat their homes and run their businesses.”

“West Virginia’s Marcellus Region has the largest shale gas reserves in the United States. This rapid rise in production in the Marcellus Region has been great for our economy but has outpaced our pipeline’s capacity,” said Sen. Capito. “This bill increases pipeline capacity, allowing the U.S. to fully take advantage of its vast natural gas reserves and limit any overload on existing pipelines.”

“A key piece of developing and implementing a multifaceted, bipartisan energy strategy includes building out our energy infrastructure to meet our energy transportation needs,” said Sen. Heitkamp. “It just makes sense that oil and gas pipeline applications should be addressed in a timely manner so we can more efficiently site and construct additional pipelines while paving the way for North American energy independence and security. This bill is the type of commonsense energy policy that I’ve been talking about since I came to the Senate – and was an issue I was glad to work on with Senator Capito.”

BACKGROUND

The Oil and Gas Production and Distribution Reform Act requires the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to approve or deny an application within 1 year of receiving a complete application that is ready to be processed.

The agency then responsible for issuing any federal approval must to approve or deny issuance within 90 days following FERC’s review. If the agency fails to approve or deny issuance of a permit, license, or approval within the prescribed time-frame (90 days or 120 days if an extension is granted), the license, permit, or approval shall take effect 30 days after the applicable application time period.

FERC’s permitting and review process would be improved by requiring the following:

  • Commitments and cooperation from all federal and state agencies considering any aspect of the application
  • Firm deadlines for coordinating agencies to issue associated permits
  • Concurrent reviews where each federal and state agency considering an aspect of an application carries out its obligations concurrently and in conjunction with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review
  • Issue identification and resolution to prevent unnecessary delays or permit denials;
  • Expedited processing to allow an applicant to fund a third party contractor or FERC staff to assist in preparing and reviewing their application
  • Accountability, transparency and efficiency by requiring FERC to publish an online “regulatory dashboard” to track information related to the permit review.