Washington Watch

FERC commissioners still apparently have problems with the pipeline siting improvement bill the House passed on Nov. 21 by a vote of 252-165. The Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act (H.R. 1900) sponsored by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) would impose timelines on federal resource agencies when they analyze construction projects which have already finished their environmental review by the FERC.

The federal pipeline safety agency is opening up a new front in its efforts to improve gas and oil pipeline safety. The Integrity Verification Process (IVP) previewed this summer by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) would be an "add-on," and a very costly one at that, to the existing Integrity Management (IM) program which obligates pipelines to test segments in "high consequence areas (HCAs)." There are 18,000 miles of pipeline in HCAs.

The withdrawal of the White House nominee for the FERC chairmanship reflects the intensity of the political wars between Democrats and Republicans in Washington, the heavy-handed Obama administration and miscues by Binz, a former Colorado Public Utility Commission Chairman.

Oil and gas operations are near the top of the list of sectors which will be affected if the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) proposed new workplace standard on crystalline silica becomes final.

The House Appropriations Committee made huge cuts in the fiscal 2014 budgets of the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (CWSRF and DWSRF), the main source of federal aid to cities and counties for the purpose of water infrastructure maintenance and construction.

The pipeline approval "speed up" bill hit a couple of speed bumps on July 9. At hearings in a House subcommittee, the unofficial "pipeline" commissioner at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) pointed out some potential unintended consequences that might come about if the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act (H.R. 1900) as initially written becomes law.

There probably will be neither tears nor jeers from the pipeline community over the departure of FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff. He announced his exit in late May and is staying on until President Obama nominates a successor.

The EPA says it has some fairly significant problems with the State Department's draft environmental impact statement on the Keystone XL Pipeline. The State Department draft supplemental EIS (DSEIS) was based on assessment of a new alternative route proposed by TransCanada.

A Senate committee gave a big boost to a new source of water infrastructure spending by including an amendment in the Water Resources Development Act (S. 601). That WRDA bill passed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on March 20 by a unanimous vote.

The Obama administration's positive draft environmental impact statement on the final, four-state leg of the Keystone XL pipeline appears to set approval by the State Department on an exorable path.

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