Interior Dept. Opposes Mandatory Pre-Filing Process
Although the use of the pre-filing collaborative process in
hydroelectric relicensing cases is still "too new" to determine
whether it would also work for gas pipeline projects, the
Department of Interior says its supports FERC efforts to promote
"pre-filing communications and consultations" with the agency and
other stakeholders in the gas arena. However, it agreed with
interstate gas pipelines that participation in the collaborative
process should not be mandated.
"...[W]e do not believe the Commission can or should compel
participation in either the proposed collaborative process for
natural gas or the alternative pre-filing process for hydroelectric
projects," the department said in a filing at FERC. "When
participation is forced, the development of consensus is difficult.
A collaborative process substantially relies on the development of
trust and mutual understanding in an atmosphere where candid views
should be encouraged. These attitudes cannot be compelled."
Interior's comments were in response to the Commission's notice
of proposed rulemaking (NOPR), which would require gas pipelines
and other regulated energy sectors to use collaborative procedures
to resolve significant issues prior to filing project applications
at FERC [RM98-16]. FERC believes the use of collaboratives could
help to speed up the ceritificate process. They already are being
used with some success in hydroelectric relicensing proceedings.
"We do recommend...that the Commission mandate that all
applicants (in both natural gas and hydroelectric proceedings) make
good-faith efforts to communicate and consult with stakeholders,
whether the collaborative pre-filing process is chosen or not,"
Interior said. It believes that a "general mandate" encouraging the
"investment of time and money in up-front coordination with
agencies and other stakeholders" is something that FERC should
Separately, the agency doesn't think it would be appropriate for
FERC staff to issue draft National Environmental Policy Act
documents (such as a draft environmental impact statement) on a
proposed project in advance of the filing of an application, or
allow the collaborative team to be involved in the drafting of a
draft EIS or a preliminary draft of a final EIS. "...[I]t is still
the Commission's responsibility to independently evaluate the
information submitted [by the applicant], and the Commission is
responsible for its accuracy, its scope and content," Interior
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