Major New Pipeline Safety Program Being Readied By PHMSA

December 2013, Vol. 68 No. 12

This and other delays of implementation of the pipeline law have made some top Democrats hot under the collar. In a letter sent to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on Oct. 31, Rep. John Dingell, (D-MI), wrote that a natural gas pipeline explosion in Rosston, OK, and an oil pipeline spill in North Dakota earlier this month underscored the need for the new regulations. Dingell argued that the department appears to have done little to meet the law's requirements and said it is unclear when new regulations on pipeline testing, data gathering and shut-off valves may be completed.

Bill Would Eliminate State Department From Cross Boundary Pipeline Approvals

A top federal pipeline officials voiced opposition to a new congressional bill which would remove the State Department from the process of approving the construction of pipelines that cross the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico. Many energy industry players, and various interest groups, are angry at the State Department for taking so long to finish an environmental review of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline project. Because that pipeline goes from Hardisty, Alberta, and extends south to Steele City, NE, the State Department is required to issue a Presidential Permit, which in turn requires a detailed environmental review.

But Jeff Wright, the director of the Office of Energy Products for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), opposes the North American Energy Infrastructure Act (H.R. 3301) because it would take the State Department out of the current process, eliminate environmental reviews of potential projects and require the FERC, in the case of natural gas pipelines, to approve a project within 120 days. "A 120-day deadline would not permit construction of an adequate record, enable important agency consultation or allow for meaningful public interaction in arriving at a decision," he told the House Energy and Commerce Committee at the end of October.

INGAA supports the bill. In a letter to Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Gene Green (D-TX), the sponsors of the bill, INGAA CEO Don Santa wrote: "The laws governing the approval of cross-border energy infrastructure should be updated to reflect the free trade arrangement we have shared with these nations since 1994."

The Keystone XL isn't the only inter-North American pipeline project whose Presidential Permit has been delayed. John H. Kyles, senior attorney, Plains All American Pipeline, L.P., says his company has two permits related to the minor issue of change of ownership which have been stuck in the State Department for years.