Washington Watch

PHMSA ratifies industry request on MAOP

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) published a final rule in mid-July granting transmission pipelines the changes they requested after publication of a big final rule last October titled, “Safety of Gas Transmission Pipelines: MAOP Reconfirmation, Expansion of Assessment Requirements, and Other Related Amendments.”

Pro-Pipeline Changes to NEPA Challenged

One lawsuit has already been filed contesting the Trump administration’s July pro-pipeline changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) gave the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) new authority to discount greenhouse gas emissions when approving applications for new interstate pipeline construction.

FERC Policy Statement on ROE Favors Pipelines

Interstate gas and oil pipelines got a couple of big boosts from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) policy statement published on May 21. Changes in the way the FERC calculates a pipeline’s return on equity (ROE) generally mean the higher the ROE, the higher the rates a pipeline can charge.

Senate Water Infrastructure Bills Pass Committee

Two bills passed by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will increase authorization levels for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Water (CW) and Drinking Water (DW) State Revolving Funds (SRFs). But those are only ceilings for annual funding; the Appropriations Committees in both houses actually determine funding in fiscal year 2021, which begins Oct. 1, 2020, and beyond.

PHMSA Proposal on Valves Proves Controversial

Flack is hitting the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) from all sides over its proposed rule to require automatic and remote shutoff valves on oil and gas pipelines. The February 2020 proposed rule from PHMSA attempts to implement mandates from both the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Congress.

PHMSA Allowing Enforcement Flexibility During Coronavirus Pandemic

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is giving enforcement latitude to pipeline operators during the coronavirus pandemic.

CEQ Pro-Pipeline NEPA Changes Generate Heated Attacks

The CEQ proposal includes changes to the wording and timelines in the NEPA – which controls the scope of environmental impact statements – in an attempt to modernize the 30-year-old law. Many of those pro-pipeline changes parallel recommendations made last December by the National Petroleum Council.

House Democrats Consider Anti-Pipeline Reg Changes

Democrats in the House have introduced two bills that would negatively affect interstate pipelines. The legislative efforts align with a broader push by Democrats, including presidential candidates, to enact “green” energy policies which, if not vilifying natural gas, at least tarnish its reputation as a climate-preferred alternative to coal and oil.

Two Federal Regulatory Actions Ease Pipeline Construction

Two key President Trump administration environmental regulators have made moves to wipe away potential barriers to new pipeline construction.

FERC Boosts Natural Gas in Lieu of Alternative Fuels

An order issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in December against state subsidies for nuclear and renewable energy – called “out-of-market subsidies” – apparently gives a big boost to electric utilities using natural gas and the pipelines that feed them.

EPA Proposes Limits on State Regulatory Barriers to Pipeline Construction

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is moving ahead with an effort to limit the ability of states to stymie pipeline projects by either declining to issue or delaying the issuance of Clean Water Act certifications. The states and Indian tribes are required to issue those permits within one year of submission of a request by a company wanting to build a pipeline.

Pipeline Cybersecurity Protection Legislation Moves Forward

House Democrats and Republicans have had trouble agreeing on a pipeline safety bill so far this year, but a second bill faces no such problem. The House Energy & Commerce Committee passed the Pipeline and LNG Facility Cybersecurity Preparedness Act by a voice vote in mid-July, a few weeks before the House left for its August/September work period.

Water Infrastructure Bill Introduced

The Senate is looking to pass bi-partisan water infrastructure bills aimed mostly at providing funding for dams, irrigation and water conservation, and rejuvenation projects in the Western U.S. under the auspices of the Bureau of Reclamation, an Interior Department agency. Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) introduced the most prominent of three separate bills called the Drought Resiliency and Water Supply Infrastructure Act (S. 1932).

PHMSA Likely to Accelerate LNG Rail Shipments

Environmentalists are broadening their opposition to natural gas transportation beyond pipelines by opposing the shipment of liquid natural gas (LNG) on rail cars. Energy Transport Solutions, a Florida company, has applied to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) for a special permit to send 100-plus large tank cars of LNG through Florida on their way to ports for delivery overseas.

Judge Blocks Obama-Era Water Initiative Pending Revision

A federal judge in Georgia has blocked enactment of the 2015 Waters of the United States rule in Georgia and nine other states that filed suit against the measure while it's under review by the Trump administration.

Sewer Construction Grants Targeted for Big but Speculative Increase

There seems to be a good chance that Congress will pass a reauthorization of the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF), given strong bi-partisan support for the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act of 2019 (H.R. 1497).

Appeals Courts Provide Good/Bad News for Pipelines

Stephen Barlas  |  Washington Editor The top federal appeals court in charge of policing regulatory decisions gave a big victory to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), endorsing in February its approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, one of two controversial projects already underway..

Washington Watch

By Stephen Barlas | Washington Editor GAO Highlights Potential Cyber Security Threats The Government Accountability Office (GAO) criticized the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over its oversight of cybersecurity protection at interstate pipelines. The report essentially said the DHS’s Transp..