Washington Watch

The results of the November presidential and congressional elections portend "more of the same" with regard to issues of interest to the gas transmission industry. Current regulatory dockets already underway will continue along their current track. Those dockets concern greenhouse gas emissions, the integrity management program and fracking.

Pipeline groups are unhappy with the way the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is interpreting the new penalty authority Congress provided it under the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011, which went into effect last January.

ConocoPhillips Alaska, among the most active companies exploring for oil and gas in northern Alaska, found a lot not to like in the Obama administration decision in mid-August with regard to development of the 22.8 million acre National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

Companies who do underground construction will be affected -- and not in a good way -- if the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) goes ahead with its proposal to tighten its particulate matter air emissions standard, referred to as the PM2.5 standard (2.5 indicates the size of the particle).

The July 10, 2012, preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on the major oil leak from an Enbridge pipeline in Michigan in July 2010 faults the company's operational and training procedures in numerous instances.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved a Spectra pipeline project which will bring new natural gas supplies to New York City. Spectra subsidiaries Texas Eastern and Algonquin will combine to build the new capacity, which will involve about 20 miles of pipeline, among other construction, such as compressor stations, with the total project weighing in at about $850 million. Texas Eastern and Algonquin hope to have the gas flowing into Manhattan by November 2013.

The Obama administration took its first two regulatory steps -- one final, one tentative -- toward guarding against air and ground water pollution from fracking.

With congressional funding of the state revolving funds likely to continue to decline, water infrastructure groups are pushing an alternative funding mechanism -- meant to serve as a supplement to the SRFs, not a replacement -- called a Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Fund.

Obama administration budget requests for fiscal 2013 for key pipeline regulatory and construction programs are working their way through congressional appropriation committees. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) would receive new funding for additional inspectors, allowing the agency to do more intensive inspections of pipeline safety.

With Congress having passed a pipeline safety bill last December, you'd think the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has plenty to do implementing that law during 2012.

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