Study finds more delays in non-FERC federal gas pipeline permits

Project permits from federal agencies other than the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission are taking interstate pipelines longer to obtain since passage of the 2005 Energy Policy Act, a new study by the INGAA Foundation found.

The finding contradicts one of EPACT’s main purposes, which was to streamline and expedite permits for such projects, according to the foundation, which was founded in 1990 by the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America.

The study, Expedited Federal Authorization of Interstate Natural Gas Pipelines: Are Agencies Complying with EPACT?, found that for interstate gas pipeline projects, the percentage of federal authorizations that were issued more than 90 days beyond FERC’s issuing an environmental impact statement or an environmental assessment rose from 7.69% before EPACT became law to 28.05% after its implementation.

Federal authorizations granted 180 days or longer after FERC issued an EIS or EA rose from 3.42% before EPACT became law to 19.51% after, the study said. It also found that the only EPACT provision that provides an applicant with recourse in the face of agency delay—a petition to the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit—has rarely been used, allowing agencies to miss the required federal authorization deadline without consequence.

“There are many undesirable consequences of permitting delays, ranging from increased project costs to missed in-service dates, along with a variety of associated adverse business, environmental and other implications,” noted INGAA Foundation Pres. Donald F. Santa.

“The study suggests amending the Natural Gas Act to provide FERC effective tools for enforcing deadlines at other agencies regarding natural gas pipeline project applications,” he said. “That’s something we hope legislators will consider.”

INGAA Foundation Executive Director Richard Hoffman said at a Jan. 16 American energy exports conference that FERC’s project permitting process is not only transparent, but also consistent.

“The US oil and gas pipeline network already is extensive, but more is needed,” he told the conference cosponsored by Women in International Trade and the US Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy. “About 2,000 miles/year of new interstate pipelines are needed, which is why a good overall federal permitting structure is essential. FERC’s is the gold standard.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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