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Interior Dept. Opposes Mandatory Pre-Filing Process

December 14, 1998
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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 promote strongly.

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 said.

Susan Parker

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