FERC touts new streamlined gas pipeline approval process

The US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last week said a growing number of natural gas pipeline operators are taking advantage of its new environmental streamlining permitting process.

By OGJ editors

WASHINGTON, DC, July 22 -- The US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last week said a growing number of natural gas pipeline operators are taking advantage of its new environmental streamlining permitting process.

FERC July 17 approved the Kern River Gas Transmission Co.'s $1.2 billion pipeline expansion that will double capacity to western markets via a 716 mile extension through California, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming by late 2003.

FERC's action was the first to be issued under the commission's National Environmental Policy Act prefiling process. Agency officials said the permitting on the project took 12 months—6 months less than the historical time span for approvals for pipeline expansions of a similar size and nature. The Kern River expansion will parallel the initial pipeline, minimizing any possible environmental impacts, the commission said.

Pending applications
Two other pending pipeline applications are also "actively" taking advantage of streamlined permitting rules, FERC said. Those two applications are Dominion Transmission Inc.'s Greenbriar Pipeline Project and El Paso Corp.'s Blue Atlantic Transmission System.

The proposed Greenbriar pipeline will be made up of about 280 miles of pipeline starting in Kanawha County, W. Va., and ending in Granville County, NC. Blue Atlantic would extend over 800 miles from Sable Island, off Nova Scotia, Canada to the northeastern US.

The process
FERC said that its prefiling review process can benefit pipeline companies and consumers by reducing permitting time while preserving environmental safeguards.

The agency said companies that opt to use the prefiling process before a final route is selected work with affected stakeholders and regulators to identify potential areas of conflict and resolve them in a more timely manner.

The end result can mean a final certificate is issued 7-9 months earlier than possible under a more traditional certificate application process, FERC said.

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