Capito’s bill aims to improve federal pipeline permitting process

US Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) introduced legislation aimed at modernizing and improving the timeframe for proposed oil and gas pipelines to get federal approval.

The Marcellus shale’s rapid production growth has strengthened West Virginia’s economy, but pipeline capacity has not been able to grow in response, she said as she introduced her Oil and Gas Production and Distribution Reform Act on May 6. Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) are cosponsors.

“This bill increases pipeline capacity, allowing the US to fully take advantage of its vast natural gas reserves and limit any overload on existing pipelines,” said Capito, who is an Energy and Natural Resources Committee member.

The measure would strengthen the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s permitting role by giving it authority to better coordinate efforts by other government agencies that are involved, she said.

Specifically, said Capito, the bill would help FERC by requiring:

• Commitments and cooperation from all federal and state agencies considering any aspect of an application.

• Firm deadlines for coordinating agencies to issue associated permits.

• Concurrent reviews where each federal and state agency considering an aspect of an application carries out its obligations concurrently and in conjunction with the National Environmental Policy Act review.

• Issue identification and resolution to prevent unnecessary delays or permit denial.

• Expedited processing to allow an applicant to fund a third party contractor or FERC staff to assist in preparing and reviewing its application.

• Accountability, transparency, and efficiency by requiring FERC to publish an online “regulatory dashboard” to track information related to the permit review.

An America’s Natural Gas Alliance official applauded the bill’s intent. “The expansion of pipeline infrastructure will lead to greater use of gas and, as a result, will improve our economy, environment, and energy security,” said ANGA Executive Vice-Pres. Frank J. Macchiarola. “This legislation is a step forward in addressing the complex challenges that the pipeline industry faces at a time when stronger gas infrastructure is essential to helping our nation realize the benefits of the shale gas revolution.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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