On July 19, 2017, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that grants the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) increased autonomy over pipeline approvals. The bill, Promoting Interagency Coordination for Review of Natural Gas Pipelines Act (H.R. 2910), is aimed at streamlining the federal permitting process for pipeline approvals.
H.R. 2901 would specify timeframes and procedures for FERC and other affected agencies to follow in conducting environmental reviews related to natural gas pipelines. The bill would give FERC the authority to designate which other agencies will participate in the permitting and environmental review process, and FERC would hold primary authority by setting the terms of environmental reviews, requiring other federal agencies to defer to FERC. In addition, all National Gas Act reviews would be required to proceed concurrently and finish within 90 days of the environmental review, unless otherwise mandated by law.
Backers of the bill claim that it will create a more transparent and accountable permitting system. Democrats opposing H.R. 2910 argue that the bill will result in a significant reduction in environmental reviews and community consultations in the permitting process.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that implementing the bill would have no significant net effect on the federal budget. As of July 20, H.R. 2910 was received in the Senate, and has been referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. We will continue to monitor the bill, as we expect it to face an uphill battle in the Senate later this session.