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FERC: Full Speed Ahead to Greenlight Pipeline Projects

 

LNG - Robert Bradly, JRRobert Bradley, Jr.
Founder and CEO of the Institute for Energy Research.

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FERC, with its new appointees, is now addressing its backlog and swiftly moving forward to greenlight much needed pipeline projects.

We aren’t counting our chickens yet, but the approvals would certainly be a net positive for midstream industry growth, and, ultimately, for producers and consumers of natural gas.

-Ethan Bellamy (managing director, Robert W. Baird & Co.) quoted in Catherine Traywick’s “U.S. Energy Agency to Take on $50 Billion Backlog as Senate Acts.” Bloomberg Politics, August 3, 2017.

The Senate recently confirmed two new appointees to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, ending a seven-month dormancy due to lack of a quorum. With three members, two Republicans and one Democrat, one pick from each party remains for a full five-member commission.

This delay, on top of a fossil-fuel animus by Obama’s FERC, has created a $13 billion backlog of regulatory approvals for 17 market-ready natural gas projects. With its other business, FERC’s total project backlog represents $50 billion. FERC should begin greenlighting projects immediately.

pipeline projects

Mission

With a $350 million budget and 1,500 employees, FERC’s mission is to promote “reliable, efficient and sustainable energy services at a reasonable cost through appropriate regulatory and market means.” Under the authority of the Federal Power Act of 1935 and the Natural Gas Act of 1938 (NGA), the primary duty of this agency is to “ensure just and reasonable rates, terms, and conditions” concerning interstate transmission of electricity and natural gas.

One can only wish. Sadly, FERC delays often impede otherwise ready-to-go projects. Section 7(c) of the NGA, in fact, was designed to allow coal and oil interests to intervene in hearings to slow the spread of (consumer-preferred) natural gas. And now, energy obstructionists want to complicate the certification process to keep natural gas (and other fossil fuels) in the ground.

Pipeline Projects

The new FERC has a lot of catching up to do. Approvals are entirely consistent with President Trump’s America First energy policy. Many stalled projects are hosted by states that he won with his promises of economic revitalization.

FERC is off to a good start. In late August, it approved the NEXUS, a natural gas pipeline between Ohio and Michigan. This $2 billion project could bring 3,300 jobs to those two states as well as Pennsylvania. And just this month, FERC started fighting state-level obstructionism in places (like New York) where authorities were withholding water quality permits to stymie new pipeline construction.

The next approval could be the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would run between West Virginia and North Carolina. It would create 10,000 jobs for those two states and Virginia.

FERC is also expected to greenlight the Mountain Valley Pipeline across West Virginia and Virginia, which would involve almost 9,000 jobs. These projects, and three others waitlisted during FERC’s inactivity, could create more than 26,000 jobs in total.

Smaller pending pipeline projects to enhance the grid include the Driftwood Pipeline in Louisiana; the Eastern Shore Natural Gas Project set to run through Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware; and the Spire STL Pipeline Project which would traverse Illinois and Missouri.

pipeline projects

Beyond Obstructionism/Eco-terrorism

Encouraged if not empowered by the Obama Administration, radical environmentalists employed vandalism and violence against new pipelines. According to the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline, a coordinated group of environmentalists burned the pipeline with torches, and tried to hack into the company’s networks. This ecoterrorism led to $300 million in damages and over 760 arrests.

In the Trump era, an anti-energy fringe group is attempting to kill FERC’s productivity. Beyond Extreme Energy is dedicated to stopping or delaying “all fossil fuel infrastructure before the [FERC].” Their website states:

Click here and sign up to learn more about potential acts of nonviolent civil disobedience targeting senators who will be voting on FERC appointments. FERC’s permits are a form of violence. They leave our communities and the climate deeply hurt and threatened. Anything we can do to stop or delay them is something very worthwhile.

“There is no such thing as a good FERC commissioner,” the group states. “Until Congress takes steps to replace the agency with one dedicated to a just transition off of fossil fuels, the Senate should oppose all nominations.” A headline follows: “Sweet Potatoes, Not Pipelines.”

It is as if a free people cannot have both food and energy.

Environmentalists’ objections are rooted in fantasy — and they impede safety. Pipelines are the safest way to transport fossil fuels, meaning they’re less likely to damage crops than the alternatives. And based on average annual accident rates, pipelines are over three times safer for natural gas transport than rail.

pipeline projects

Conclusion

With Commissioners Robert Powelson and Neil Chatterjee confirmed, FERC is free to greenlight projects that put consumers and economies first. As FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee stated:

A reliable and resilient grid requires the development of needed energy infrastructure. FERC supports infrastructure development through its statutory responsibility to authorize the construction of certain energy infrastructure, such as interstate natural gas pipelines, liquefied natural gas terminals, and non-federal hydropower generation. While the Commission has been unable for much of this year to act on applications for such projects, the Commission is addressing the backlog and will continue to make steady progress in the coming weeks and months.

This is all well and good, but longer term, structural reforms are necessary to prevent future delays.

The sooner FERC starts greenlighting projects, the sooner consumers receive the economic benefits associated with natural gas.

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7 thoughts on “FERC: Full Speed Ahead to Greenlight Pipeline Projects

  1. I wish all 17 pipeline projects could be built next to your home and children’s schools….
    And all your trees cut down for the projects…
    And see how much you would then push for this…

    Push for alternatives that do not invade our space with safety risks…

    • Vera, a pipeline has less of a footprint than a conventional overhead electric which some believe emit electromagnetic radiation which some say causes cancer.

    • Not to mention the size and damage solar & wind farms do to ecosystems. What’s worse, 90ac of pipeline taking only a 50′ swath (50′ wide for 90ac) of forest land or 90ac of forest land (clear cutting all trees in site). I think we both know the answer.

      • Plus you have issues with invasive plants, loss of potential old growth forests, erosion and sediment, need for access roads, highly valued and historic Vistas being negatively impacted which should irk the gentry class.

    • For 10 years I lived in a house where you could either burn electric power or wood to keep warm in Idaho winters. I did mostly wood and it was a lot of work and messy, but I was far younger and didn’t mind. Now my worn-out back remembers all of that wood-cutting, splitting, stacking and handling.

      For 21 years now I have lived in houses with natural gas heat, and been damn glad for the cheap hot water and convenient comfort and cleanliness. And I feel sorry for those who do not have the opportunity for the same with a gas line to their house.

      Let the users speak for the popularity and economic advantage of access to gas, and they will drown out the noise of the few persistent detractors such as you.

  2. Other than one pilot program in Alaska that was not completed, Natural gas is not transported via rail in the USA. Japan transports natural gas via rail by the US does not. Not sure where that statistic comes from but it is misleading.

  3. What proof was there of a “fossil fuel” animus at Obama’s FERC, as you call it? Also what proof is there of ferc delays?

    The institute for energy research seems to be peddling nonsense. And it’s not just this post either. How many miles of pipeline did ferc approve prior to president trump getting elected and while Obama was in office?

    By the way Beyond extreme energy predates the trump era. The group has been targeting ferc for a few years now. Insitute for energy research doesn’t seem to get that the antifracking movement existed before trump and targeted Obama as well.

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