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FERC Official Objects to House Deadline on Border Facilities

A House bill's requirement that FERC act on border-crossing pipeline applications within 120 days of their filing has been roundly criticized by an agency staffer tasked with approving pipeline projects.

The bipartisan legislation, which was drafted by Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Gene Green (D-TX), would require the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to act on a proposed border-crossing project within 120 days of receipt of a request to approve the facilities, unless it finds that the project is not in the national security interests of the United States.

The legislation (HR 3301) would only apply to border-crossing facilities between the United States, Canada and Mexico.

"A 120-day deadline would not permit construction of an adequate record enabling important agency consultation or allow for meaningful public interaction in arriving at a decision," said Jeff Wright, director of FERC's Office of Energy Projects, during a House energy and power subcommittee hearing on the bill Tuesday.

The legislation would "decouple the cross-border determination" from the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review process. However, Wright noted that FERC staff conduct a NEPA analysis when reviewing applications for border-crossing facilities.

Wright believes that the State Department and Defense Department need to remain integral parts of the approval process. "The Commission is not equipped to make decisions on national security interests,” he said.

The House measure would also remove the "unnecessary requirement" for gas pipes crossing U.S. borders into Canada or Mexico to receive approval from the Department of Energy.

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