Home > Uncategorized > Natural Gas Council Letter To Trump On State Role In “Hijacking” Pipeline Review Process Is Elephant In The Room In FERC Policy Review

Natural Gas Council Letter To Trump On State Role In “Hijacking” Pipeline Review Process Is Elephant In The Room In FERC Policy Review

Media & pipeline opponents miss the point on State Water Quality Certificate powers

Gas industry clearly sees State 401 WQC power as its most serious threat

On April 10, 2018, a group of the largest fracking gas companies and the American Petroleum Institute, calling themselves the Natural Gas Council, wrote President Trump a letter, claiming that States were “hijacking” the FERC review process and “undermin[ing] the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s exclusive authority to approve interstate natural gas pipelines”:

The implementation of Clean Water Act Section 401, which provides states with the opportunity to consider the potential water quality impacts of infrastructure projects requiring federal approval, has proven particularly challenging and would benefit from further direction from the Administration beyond what was included in the Legislative Outline. Recent implementation of Section 401 has created much confusion and frustration and has resulted in significant delays to infrastructure projects. Moreover, some states are improperly using Section 401 to hijack the permitting process for pipelines that transport natural gas in interstate commerce.

The letter praised Trump’s Legislative Outline for Rebuilding Infrastructure in America and urged Trump to issue a directive to federal agencies that essentially would preempt State powers under the Clean Water Act:

In particular, lead federal permitting agencies should recognize their authority and obligation to define and implement the Section 401 process. This includes ensuring that a state is not manipulating the process through enforcement of the statutory time period and confirming state actions are related to applicable water quality standards. Where the process is not followed, the lead federal agency has the duty and obligation to find the Section 401 obligation waived for all federal authorizations required for the project. Other federal agencies must accept the waiver determination and move forward with implementing their statutory requirements for licensing and permitting of the proposed project.

By providing clear instruction on how the Section 401 process is to be implemented by lead federal permitting agencies, this Administration can ensure that Section 401 is implemented consistent with the Clean Water Act and with the principles of cooperative federalism.

The Gas Council’s letter frames and messages key issues of federalism, over-regulation, and infrastructure policy in a way that resonates with the right wing corporate interests that are driving the Trump administration, an argument that is music to their ears.

The Trump administration is likely to do the same deregulatory favors for the gas industry via FERC that the Pruitt EPA has done for coal, oil, and gas industries.

The Gas Council letter was written to Trump in an obvious attempt to influence the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which just began hearings to review its policy on natural gas pipelines.

The powerful gas industry – and their champions in Congress and the Trump administration – want more pipelines, more gas exports, and for FERC to expedite their current rubber stamp, making FERC approvals faster, cheaper, and more even reliable, while excluding pesky environmental groups and landowners.

Congress held hearings to send that message to FERC:

At the start of Tuesday’s three-hour hearing, Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), chairman of the full House Energy and Commerce (E&C) Committee, said that as the nation’s generation mix shifts toward natural gas “we’re going to need more pipelines.”

“I am hopeful that Chairman [Kevin] McIntyre’s review of FERC’s procedures for evaluating applications for new gas pipelines will result in more efficient and timely decisions,” Walden said. “With our abundant shale resources, we can be entirely self-sufficient on natural gas, but we must construct new pipelines.”

The media and even NJ’s leading environmental Congressman Frank Pallone are narrowly focused on FERC and landowner interests (exercise of eminent domain).

They are oblivious to the real threat of FERC preemption of State Clean Water Act powers targeted by the natural gas industry: (gas industry daily)

But Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), E&C’s ranking member, said he hopes FERC’s review of its 1999 gas pipeline certificate policy [PL18-1] will lead to greater protections for property owners.

“For years, I have expressed concern with the process FERC uses to review pipeline applications, and its tendency to green light the construction of potentially unnecessary pipeline projects,” Pallone said. “Homeowners in the path of a pipeline have little recourse to stop pipeline companies from seizing their land through eminent domain.

“It’s time for a new approach. I believe a more regional review of these projects should be implemented rather than the current process where every pipeline appears to be reviewed individually, without any consideration of the pipelines in the area.”

Meanwhile, NJ Spotlight has not reported on the Gas Council’s letter and continued its blackout of the 401 WQC issue, with a story today on the FERC review.

The Spotlight story parrots the same misfocus as the gas industry’s PR arm, see: FERC REVIEWS ITS POLICIES FOR APPROVING NATURAL-GAS PIPELINES

When will media, pipeline opponents and NJ legislative leaders address the Clean Water Act 401 WQC issue?

When will they begin to publicly call on Gov. Murphy to exercise that power to kill proposed pipelines, including PennEast?

The gas industry clearly sees that power as its most serious threat.

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