Pipeline Approval Reform Bill Hits Headwinds

August 2013, Vol. 68 No. 8

INGAA and the American Gas Association are trying to knock holes in the Oak Ridge and Kiefner reports. A letter written in May by Terry Boss, senior vice president environment, safety and operations at INGAA and Christina Sames, vice president, operations and engineering at AGA, stated, "The revised Oak Ridge report still employs flawed bases that overstate the benefits of installing valves, leading to false conclusions favoring installation." The letter was written to Cynthia L. Quarterman, administrator, PHMSA. Boss and Sames argue the second report from a Kiefner contains "incorrect conclusions."

In contrast, GAO’s incident report, Better Data and Guidance Needed to Improve Pipeline Operator Incident Response, issued on Jan. 23, 2013, provides support for a performance-based approach to incident response.

Obama endorses methane emissions reduction

Any federally-mandated reductions in methane emissions would catch the immediate attention of the natural gas pipeline industry. So executives can be excused for wondering where President Obama's new methane reduction strategy group will be heading. He announced a joint effort by federal agencies to reduce methane emissions at Georgetown University on June 25 as part of a major climate change speech.

A few days after Obama's speech, new Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Ernest Moniz announced his department would be making somewhere in the neighborhood of $8 billion in loan guarantees for pollution reduction technology projects in the natural gas and petroleum industries. He specifically mentioned an upcoming search for methane reduction technologies.

In terms of the broader methane reduction strategy the Obama Administration will develop, that will be produced under the aegis of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) working with U.S. Department of Agriculture, DOE, Department of the Interior, Department of Labor and Department of Transportation. “Across the economy, there are multiple sectors in which methane emissions can be reduced, from coal mines and landfills to agriculture and oil and gas development,” the administration climate change plan states, noting that the EPA and USDA have worked with the dairy industry over the past three years to increase the use of methane digesters.