Hebert: FERC Not the 'Happiness Commission'
If environmental groups and landowners somehow got the idea that
through their increased activities at FERC their influence was
growing, perhaps they should think again.
"FERC is not the happiness Commission," FERC Commissioner Curt
Hebert reminded attendees last week at the Natural Gas Roundtable
in Washington, D.C. "We can't make everybody happy. It's just not
possible," he said.
"What I would love to see and what would make us a better
Commission is that we understand that we are an economic agency and
we have to let economic efficiencies be our sail that takes us in
the right direction."
He expressed concern at what he called the Commission's "growing
tendency to try to make everyone happy." Hebert, a former
legislator and regulator in Mississippi, said he's seen it before.
"Ultimately what we do is we fail to make anyone happy because
people get drawn out by the process and they think it is an
indecisive process." He said the Commission shouldn't waste time
giving certain intevenors in expansions or new construction
projects "false hope" by delaying an inevitable certificate.
That is becoming more difficult not only because of the
increasing number of pipeline expansions but also because of a
large increase in interventions. Interventions at FERC on
environmental issues of expansion projects have grown exponentially
in the 1990s. In the Kern River-Mojave expansion project there were
200 interventions on environmental issues. With the Iroquois
Pipeline project in 1991, interventions on environmental issues
rose to 500, and in the current Independence Pipeline project
docket there are at least 4,500 intervenors.
Hebert assured attendees he's not a "wacked out right winger who
doesn't believe in environmental concerns," but if "we can take all
the money that has been spent on delays to approvals and put those
on worthwhile projects, that's something I would like to see.
"I'm not saying the interests of environmentalists and
landowners are not worth while or instructive. What I am saying is
as regulators we need to work to balance the interests of all those
involved.. It's important that we understand that different groups
are weighted differently." Advocacy groups carry very little weight
compared with public service commissions, which balance opposing
views, he said. "I don't think it takes a mental giant to figure
out who we should weight more."
With numerous pipeline expansions awaiting Commission approval,
Hebert said his fellow commissioners must make sure the business
decisions of parties who build and pay for new projects are not
being "questioned and second-guessed."
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