President Donald J. Trump’s Jan. 24 executive order for expedited environmental reviews and approvals for high-priority infrastructure projects sent a welcome signal, officials from oil and gas associations said. Its implementation will need to take place within the context of existing laws, notably the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, they added.
“It doesn’t give a lot of context on how the implementation is going to work,” American Petroleum Institute Group Director for Midstream and Industry Operations Robin Rorick told OGJ. “Under the FAST Act, it gave some responsibilities to [the White House Office of Management and Budget]. We’re going to have to see how this would work with this administration.”
The Interstate Natural Gas Association of America said in a statement that it supports “an Executive Branch policy to ‘streamline and expedite, in a manner consistent with law, environmental reviews and approvals for all infrastructure projects,’ especially for projects that meet the public interest.” It did not comment directly on the EO.
The order said that if a state governor, the head of any executive department or agency, or the chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality can ask CEQ to determine within 30 days if an infrastructure project deserves high-priority status. “This determination shall be made after consideration of the project's importance to the general welfare, value to the nation, environmental benefits, and such other factors as the chairman deems relevant,” it said.
Once a project receives a high-priority designation, CEQ’s chairman is to coordinate with the head of the relevant agency and establish, in a manner consistent with law, expedited procedures and deadlines for completion of environmental reviews and approvals, the EO continued.
“With respect to deadlines established consistent with this section that are not met, the head of the relevant agency shall provide a written explanation to [CEQ’s] chairman explaining the causes for the delay and providing concrete actions taken by the agency to complete such reviews and approvals as expeditiously as possible,” it said.
The Obama administration tried in certain cases to get non-primary federal agencies to get their assessments of issues related to their missions to the primary agency reviewing a project’s permit application, but was not always successful. Trump’s order could help agencies like the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which already has a reasonably efficient project review process, get necessary information from non-primary agencies, industry officials indicated.
“We certainly look forward to working with the administration as they work through the details of these orders to further flesh them out,” Rorick said. “It shouldn’t be overlooked that, looking past the executive orders and memoranda, it sent a clear signal to the industry and workers on the pipelines that this president is committed to increasing the national infrastructure.”
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