New Funding Authority For Water Infrastructure Moves Forward In Senate

May 2013, Vol. 68 No. 5

Pompeo said he is developing legislation that will force agencies outside of the FERC to meet strict timetables for providing environmental input. "This will allow pipelines to move forward so they can have a little more certainty," he explained. "I hope my bill will have bi-partisan support." Pompeo did not indicate when he will introduce his bill.

Moeller responded: "The challenges that you alluded to are the resource agencies that typically don't have the accountability to come back with an answer. It is the way the statute is. If you created a timeline of responsibility, I think they would be a lot more responsive."

In addition, Pompeo criticized President Obama for suggesting in mid-March that the FERC include the impact on "climate change" in any NEPA analysis it does on a new pipeline or any other project. He asked Moeller whether the FERC currently has the authority to do that. Moeller said he would have to review court decisions before reaching a conclusion on that question.

Most of the hearing, however, was devoted to questions about what the FERC could or should do to help electric utilities obtain dependable access to natural gas. Demand for natural gas has skyrocketed as coal-fired generation has been taken off the board because, in good part, of Environmental Protection Agency regulations meant to discourage the use of coal. The FERC has been conducting technical conferences and meetings over the past year dedicated to determining whether it needs to either develop new federal rules on such things as "scheduling" and "communications" or leave solutions to the regions that have different mixes of energy inputs and pipeline infrastructures.

"The challenges are serious, very real and somewhat urgent, especially in New England and the Midwest," said Moeller. "Indeed, some in the industry believe nothing short of a major blackout will provide sufficient motivation to the various stakeholders to solve the problems facing us."