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Bill to Expedite NatGas Pipeline Permitting to Get Second Chance in Congress

Emboldened by the first Republican majorities in both houses of Congress since 2006, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) has reintroduced the "Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act," (HR 161), which would establish a set deadline for federal and state agencies to approve pipeline applications.

A previous iteration of the bill (HR 1900), also sponsored by Pompeo, was introduced in 2013 and voted out of the House 252-165, with most of the support coming from Republicans (see Daily GPINov. 21, 2013). But that bill stalled in the then Democratically controlled Senate.

Pompeo's bill would establish a 12-month deadline for FERC to approve gas pipeline applications, and other federal permitting agencies would have 90 days (with a potential extension of 30 days) to complete a separate review of the project.

Like a bill to approve construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline that was making its way through congress last week (see Shale DailyJan. 8; Jan. 9), Pompeo's bill, if it makes its way to President Obama's desk, is likely to be vetoed. The administration "strongly opposes HR 1900, which would allow the automatic approval of natural gas pipeline projects if the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or other federal agencies do not issue the required permit, license or approval within rigid, unworkable time frames," said the White House Office of Management and Budget in November 2013.

But Donald Santa, president of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, applauded Pompeo for reintroducing the bill.

"It is important to note that the time allowed for action by permitting agencies prescribed by the legislation does not begin to toll until after FERC has completed its environmental review under NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act]," Santa said in a letter to Pompeo. "By that point in the process, a pipeline project developer has been in consultations with both FERC and the permitting agencies for 12 to 18 months, and sometimes longer. It is therefore entirely reasonable to expect that a permitting agency will be in a position to make a final decision within 90 days of completion of the NEPA review."

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) urged swift passage of the bill.

"Chemical companies plan to invest more than $135 billion in the U.S. in the form of new plants, expansions and factory re-starts, adding hundreds of thousands of jobs to our economy by 2023," ACC said. "Pipelines will be vital to transport natural gas from production sites to facilities around the country. Modernizing the pipeline permitting process will support U.S. manufacturing growth while helping to keep energy and electricity reliable and affordable."

(An earlier version of this article, which appeared in the Jan. 9 edition of NGI's Daily Gas Price Index, used a quote from the American Chemistry Council that incorrectly stated that Pompeo's bill would apply to natural gas liquids; it would not.)

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