current reviews by participant agencies under NEPA, has occurred already for transportation and water infrastructure,
Soth said. “The legislation requires agencies to submit regular updates to FERC identifying their progress in reviewing
an application. And importantly, the legislation demands
that state and federal agencies responsibly identify issues of
concern that may delay a decision or prevent [FERC] from
issuing a timely authorization,” he said.
Undermines states’ authority
But another witness said that the discussion draft would
inappropriately expand FERC’s NGA authority and undermine states’ rights and the important role that other federal and state agencies play in protecting natural resources
when pipeline projects are proposed.
“We heard testimony earlier this morning from FERC itself that its employees are not well-versed in environmental
requirements. Agencies responsible for implementing federal clean air and clean water requirements need to report
to FERC,” said Jennifer Danis, a senior staff attorney at the
Eastern Environmental Law Center in Newark, NJ.
She said that giving state agencies the option to consider remote surveys’ data interferes with their environmental determinations, which are part of complex regulatory
schemes and their implementing protocols. “Since aerial
surveys generate little, if any, legitimate scientific evidence
upon which an agency may make a decision, there is no
sound reason to create an alternative permitting regime in
which an agency may simply guess as to the actual environmental impacts and perform its analysis once on-site
surveys and sampling occurs,” Danis said.
Other witnesses and committee members discussed a
second discussion draft, which would give FERC authority to issue permits for cross-border pipelines, replacing
the process requiring presidential approval following a US
Department of State review. “Coming from Texas, I know
we’re trying to sell as much gas as possible to northern
Mexico, and border-crossing issues have arisen,” said Gene
Green (D-Tex.), one of its sponsors.
“With no obligations under federal law to reach a timely
decision, limit the scope of the review to border crossing,
or avoid wasteful reviews of projects with little to no envi-
ronmental impact, the current process is ripe for abuse by
future administrations,” Association of Oil Pipe Lines Pres.
Andrew J. Black warned. “The current administration has
returned to the original intent of the presidential permit
program. Without reform, a future administration could
return to the abuses of the past.”
He said that petroleum liquids pipeline operators sup-
port the discussion draft’s provisions that provide a stat-
utory time limit for permit review after any applicable
environmental reviews are complete, presume approval
reflecting the benefit of reducing dependence on unstable
overseas suppliers, limit the border crossing permit scope
of review to the segment that actually crosses the border,
and exempts modifications that have no impact on the en-
vironment at the border crossing.
Danis said the proposed changes would remove the national interest determination in which the Defense, Homeland Security, and State departments now participate. By
limiting FERC’s review to the border crossing segment, the
new regime would eliminate consideration of possible environmental impacts from leaks along the rest of the pipeline’s route, she noted .
includes LNG provision
A provision in a new economic cooperation agreement
with China clarified its status as an importer of US LNG
that does not have a free-trade agreement with the US. The
provision in the May 11 US-China Economic Cooperation
100-Day Plan stated that China would be treated “no less
favorably than other non-FTA trade partners with regard to
LNG export authorizations.”
It said, “Companies from China may proceed at any
time to negotiate all types of contractual arrangement with
US LNG exporters, including long-term contracts, subject
to the commercial considerations of the parties.”
LNG exports to countries having an FTA with the US
are automatically presumed to be in the national interest
under the Natural Gas Act. Exports to non-FTA countries
are subject to US Department of Energy reviews to deter-
mine if they similarly qualify. As of Apr. 25, the US Depart-
ment of Energy had authorized 19.2 bcfd of LNG exports to
non-FTA countries, the US Department of Commerce said
as it announced the bilateral trade agreement.
Groups that have called for more US LNG exports welcomed the news. “The devil is always in the details, but I
think it is a positive step both for US LNG suppliers and
potential buyers in China,” Center for Liquefied Natural
Gas Pres. Charlie Riedl said.
“If you look at what’s happening currently, we’re al-
ready exporting gas to China— 9 cargoes since 2015,” he
told OGJ. “But there is no contract agreement in connection
with specific projects. All of the gas has gone there through
The provision corrects a perception that the previous
administration did not want to deal directly with China on
LNG exports, Riedl said. “This provision says China will