Search Penny Hill Press

Loading...

Monday, July 29, 2013

Interstate Natural Gas Pipelines: Process and Timing of FERC Permit Application Review



Paul W. Parfomak
Specialist in Energy and Infrastructure Policy

Growth in U.S. shale gas production involves the expansion of natural gas pipeline infrastructure to transport natural gas from producing regions to consuming markets, typically in other states. Over 300,000 miles of interstate transmission pipeline already transport natural gas across the United States. However, if the growth in U.S. shale gas continues, the requirement for new pipelines could be substantial. This ongoing expansion has increased congressional interest in the role of the federal government in the certification (permitting) of interstate natural gas pipelines.

Under Section 7(c) of the Natural Gas Act of 1938, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is authorized to issue certificates of “public convenience and necessity” for “the construction or extension of any facilities ... for the transportation in interstate commerce of natural gas.” Thus, companies seeking to build interstate natural gas pipelines must first obtain certificates of public convenience and necessity from FERC. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct) designates FERC as the lead agency for coordinating “all applicable Federal authorizations” and for National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance in reviewing pipeline certificate applications.

There are no statutory time limits within which FERC must complete its certificate review process. However, EPAct authorizes FERC to establish a schedule for all related federal authorizations and provides for judicial petition if an agency fails to comply with that schedule. Congress included these provisions in EPAct to address concerns that some interstate gas pipeline and other energy infrastructure approvals were being unduly delayed by a lack of coordination or insufficient action among agencies involved in the certification process. FERC has promulgated regulations requiring certificate-related final decisions from other agencies no later than 90 days after the commission issues its final environmental document.

Notwithstanding the EPAct provisions, there is continuing concern by some in the gas industry and in Congress that FERC review of pipeline certificate applications can still take too long. The only schedule-related legislative proposal to date in the current Congress is the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act (H.R. 1900). This bill seeks to expedite the federal review of certificate applications by imposing deadlines on the agencies involved. H.R. 1900 would impose an explicit 12-month deadline on FERC certificate reviews and would codify the commission’s 90-day regulatory deadline for any certificate-related agency decisions. Any agency decision not meeting the 90-day deadline would be approved by default.

The optimal time for any deadline that Congress might impose on FERC or cooperating agencies is open to debate. The 12-month deadline in H.R. 1900 would be approximately the same as the average FERC certificate review time today. However, 12 months could represent a reduction in the review time that might be expected for atypically lengthy or complex pipeline projects. In light of FERC’s recent record approving new gas pipelines, FERC commissioners have been neutral or modestly supportive towards legislative proposals for stronger certificate review authorities. However, a 12-month deadline on FERC could raise the possibility that the commission might deny certificate applications for some projects simply on the grounds that it lacks sufficient time for an adequate review. The ability of FERC and any other federal or state agencies it works with to expedite their parts of certificate review to meet an expedited schedule may be limited by available resources.


Date of Report: July 8, 2013
Number of Pages: 16
Order Number: R43138
Price: $29.95


To Order:




R43138.pdf   to use the SECURE SHOPPING CART

e-mail congress@pennyhill.com

Phone 301-253-0881

For email and phone orders, provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.