New US FERC chairman promises ‘fresh look’ at gas pipeline approval policies
Under increased scrutiny and heightened environmental opposition, the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will take a comprehensive “fresh look” at its policies for reviewing and approving natural gas pipeline projects, the new head of the agency said Thursday.
Chairman Kevin McIntyre, who took his seat at the commission December 7, announced at the commission’s open meeting that it was time to take a look at FERC’s longstanding policy statement on the issuance of pipeline certificate orders.
The policy, which has been in place since 1999, is more than ripe for review, given the tremendous changes to the natural gas industry since the policy was instituted, all of the commissioners on the panel agreed.
“Without prejudging anything and without intending to forecast a policy direction, … it’s a matter we believe of good governance to take a fresh look at this area and to give all stakeholders and the public an opportunity to weigh in on” whether changes to the existing policy are warranted, McIntyre said.
The format and scope of the review have yet to be determined, but could take the form of a notice of inquiry, a call for a technical conference or a number of other formats available to the commission.
“I guarantee, whatever it is, it will be open and transparent and thorough, and it will invite the views of all stakeholders to ensure we are doing everything we can to accurately and efficiently assess pipeline applications that we receive and process,” McIntyre said.
The initiative to review FERC’s 1999 pipeline policy statement is a first step in making good on McIntyre’s pledge during his Senate confirmation to review FERC’s processes and policies and look for areas that can be improved.
Opposition to pipeline projects has ratcheted up the past couple of years, with FERC taking the brunt of attacks by groups and individuals opposed to fossil fuel-based energy developments. Protests at FERC, including interruptions at the commission’s monthly open meetings, have become commonplace as the commission is frequently accused of rubber-stamping fracked-gas infrastructure projects and overlooking the impact to climate change and the communities where projects are located.
Environmental groups applauded FERC’s intention to revisit its policies. “This is a significant move by FERC, taking the first step forward toward remedying the public harms wrought by its failure to ensure that natural gas pipelines serve the public interest,” Jennifer Danis, a senior staff attorney with the Eastern Environmental Law Center, said in a statement.