Other than when dealing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, it takes longer to gain the necessary interstate gas pipelines permits from federal agencies than it did prior to the passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, according to a new study by INGAA Foundation.
Among the key findings concerning the law passed with the stated intention of streamlining and expediting federal authorizations of such projects:
• The percentage of federal permits granted more than 90 days after FERC’s issuance of an Environmental Impact Statement or an Environmental Assessment rose from 7.69% prior to EPAct 2005 to 28.05% after its implementation.
• Federal permits issued 180 days or more after FERC’s environmental approvals increased from a previous level of 3.42% to 19.51% after the act.
“The study suggests amending the Natural Gas Act to provide FERC effective tools for enforcing deadlines at other agencies regarding natural gas pipeline project applications,” said INGAA President and CEO Don Santa. “That’s something we hope legislators will consider…We need to encourage timely pipeline development.”
The study, titled Expedited Federal Authorization of Interstate Natural Gas Pipelines, also found that the only provision in the act providing an applicant with recourse when stymied by an agency delay is a petition to the U.S. Court of Appeals for relief, a seldom used option. As a result, agencies are allowed to miss federal authorization deadlines without consequence, INGAA said.
The study’s suggestions for reducing future permitting delays include penalizing agencies that fail to meet FERC deadlines, planning for projects early and thoroughly, and establishing better lines of communication between agencies and applicants.
The study focused on an EPAct 2005 provision that allowed FERC to set a schedule for federal authorizations. It did not review FERC certification timetables except in relationship to whether other federal agencies met the FERC schedule. To collect data, INGAA contractor Holland & Hart surveyed representatives of 51 interstate gas pipeline projects from both before and after the effective date of EPAct 2005.