Landowners and interstate pipelines actually agreed on somethingearlier this week — neither were particularly thrilled with someof the initiatives proposed by FERC for carving out a greater rolefor landowners in the certificate process. But the reasons fortheir dissatisfaction were completely disparate.

In commenting on the notice of proposed rulemaking (NOPR)dealing with landowner notification, landowners argued that theCommission was so wrapped up with “details” in the NOPR that itmissed the crux of the landowner-pipeline problem, which theybelieve could be partly remedied if FERC were to require pipes tonotify potentially affected landowners of new greenfield projects”prior” to filing applications at FERC and to engage incollaboration from the outset. They contend the Commission’s NOPR,which was issued in late April, falls far short on this score. Itproposes that pipelines alert landowners about new Section 7(c)projects by certified mail within three business days “after”filing their applications at FERC [RM98-18].

“The pipeline industry seems more willing to quarrel about thedetails of how to deal with landowners than to face the heart ofthe problem. Should landowners be involved sooner rather thanlater? …..Should the letters [to landowners] go out the daybefore, the day of, or the day after the filing of an applicationwith the Commission? Should the letters include the FERC docketnumber? Should letters be sent certified mail, or is first classgood enough? Details and more details. So what?” said Dr. AnneMarie Mueser of the GASP Coalition, which represents landownerinterests, in comments submitted to FERC on Monday. “Sending aletter to [landowners] is a nice touch, but it does not cure whatis wrong with the process.”

Although citing its appreciation for FERC’s efforts, GASP saidthe notification process outlined in the NOPR would not create a”level playing field” and would be “insufficient to resolveproblems” between landowners and pipelines. It further accused theCommission of being “unable or unwilling to control abuses” ofpipelines towards landowners, and said that pipelines’ use ofeminent domain to take landowners’ property was “unconstitutionalas well as unconscionable.”

The Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA), incontrast, supported the three-day, post-filing notificationrequirement for Section 7(c) projects, saying it “strikes anappropriate balance” between the needs of affected landowners andthe needs of the pipelines for timely Commission review of theirproject filings. In order to comply with the requirement, however,the pipeline group asked FERC to assign docket numbers at the timepipeline applications are filed. If that isn’t possible, itrecommended that the Commission revise its proposal to allow forlandowner notification within three business days after a docketnumber is assigned.

But INGAA and individual pipelines strongly objected to any sortof mandate requiring formal pre-filing notification of landowners,such as through pipeline-landowner meetings, to give them a greaterrole in the project siting process. Most pipelines alreadyvoluntarily hold such meetings, and find them to be “beneficial”for working out problems associated with their projects, GreatLakes Gas Transmission L.P. told FERC. But mandating such”pre-filing meetings where [a] pipeline either lacks sufficientdetails about a project’s route or even its size is more likely tocreate issues than to resolve them…..The timing and breadth ofthose meetings should not be dictated by the Commission.” TheProcess Gas Consumers Group (PGC), a group of industrial gas users,agreed, saying the meetings “should be left to the discretion ofthe pipeline.”

Pipelines also took issue with a NOPR initiative requiring themto give landowners at least 30 days notice prior to startingconstruction on replacement facilities or under their blanketcertificate. Although they favor landowner notification forcase-specific certificate applications, INGAA and others insistsuch a requirement shouldn’t be imposed on unplanned replacementprojects (i.e. plugging a leak, equipment failure or corrosion)because often these projects can’t wait 30 days to be addressed.”Clearly, pipelines must be able to perform unplanned maintenancework quickly,” INGAA said.

INGAA called FERC’s 30-day notification proposal forblanket-certificate projects unessential. “If a pipeline is goingto perform new construction under its blanket certificate, thepipeline must already have or have obtained the necessaryright-of-way, and in the normal course of business would notify theresident prior to entering the property. Therefore, theCommission’s notification requirement is unnecessary.”Specifically, it asked FERC to reduce the proposed prior noticeperiod for blanket-certificate projects to three days from 30 days,and to eliminate it altogether for unplanned maintenance andreplacement projects.

Some pipelines also had problems with what they believed wasFERC’s all-inclusive definition for an “affected” landowner, whowould be subject to pipeline notification. The Columbia Energypipelines took issue with including landowners whose property”abuts an existing right-of-way or facility site” in this category,saying this departed from a “reasoned approach” to who was or whowasn’t affected by a proposed project. “Abutting landowners willnot have [pipeline] facilities on their property, will not besubject to condemnation and will not have restrictions on their useof their property. At most, abutting landowners may bear a portionof the temporary impact of construction (for example the sound ofconstruction equipment) – an impact not so significant as tojustify inclusion in this special class.”

The Columbia lines further opposed labeling landowners whoseproperty would be located in the vicinity of new storage facilitiesas “affected” parties. “Columbia recommends that this category belimited to properties on which facilities (above or below ground)will be constructed. The focus should properly be upon thosesurface landowners who will be directly affected by theconstruction proposals in contrast to others within the new storagefield whose property will not be disturbed.”

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