Washington Watch

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is investigating the possibility that two interstate pipelines are charging unreasonable rates. The FERC opened mid-November investigations of Kinder Morgan Interstate Gas Transmission LLC and Ozark Gas Transmission LLC, a unit of Spectra Energy Partners LP., based on reviews of Form 2 cost of service and revenue information submitted by the two companies for 2008 and 2009.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may require pipelines to severely reduce the presence of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) throughout their systems, a move which would cost the industry tens, and potentially hundreds, of billions of dollars, according to the American Gas Association. Pamela F. Faggert, vice president and chief environmental officer, Dominion Resources Services, Inc., says the new regulatory measures the EPA is considering could cost her company alone a minimum of $300 million.

Congress may vote during the lame duck session after the November congressional elections on the biggest pipeline safety bill since the 2002 amendments established integrity management programs for distribution, transmission and hazardous liquid pipelines. Then again, a major reform bill may be delayed until the next Congress.

Despite criticism of his company's proposed, nearly 2000-mile pipeline, Robert Jones, vice president, Keystone Pipelines, TransCanada Corporation, says he is very confident that the U.S. State Department will approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The Small Business Jobs and Credit Act passed by the U.S. Senate Sept. 16 will extend the 50 percent bonus depreciation deduction for 2010. Additionally, it includes approximately $12 billion in tax relief for small businesses and a $30 billion lending fund that will be administered by the Treasury Department.

The energy bill the Senate is to finally take up in September is primarily a "BP-response" bill. It contains none of the greenhouse gas emission reductions that Democrats had hoped to bring to a vote in a "Climate Change" bill, which is dead for this year. The Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Company Accountability Act of 2010 focuses mostly on oil spill liability and response issues.

The BP Deepwater Horizon spill continues to have ramifications for pipeline safety even though pipelines -- neither gas nor oil -- had nothing to do with that Gulf of Mexico disaster. Nonetheless, "BP" is an entry point for Congress and others to show renewed concern about potential environmental accidents from all sorts of energy activities.

If Congress finally passes a Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) reauthorization this year, it may be because of Dunkin' Donuts. A store outside Boston was the scene of a near riot in May when it was unable to offer its customers coffee because of a shortage of water caused by a breach in a seven-year old water pipe which affected over two million Boston residents. The Boston newspapers called the water disaster "Aquapocalypse."

David Michaels, the new administrator of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), is turning up the heat on industry, and critics of the agency under George W. Bush are pointing the Obama administrator toward the pipeline and underground construction industries.

It looks like Congress will give cities and counties some new flexibility in funding drinking water and sewer projects. The Small Business and Infrastructure Jobs Tax Act of 2010 (H.R. 4849) that passed in the House, 246 - 178 on March 24, has a provision which allows states to issue private activity bonds for water projects without counting the value of those bonds toward state caps.

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