FERC, Legislative Updates, U.S. House

Legislative Update: Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Act and Energy Consumers Relief Act of 2013 Among Three Energy Bills To Be Voted On By Full U.S. House Energy & Commerce Committee

            On July 9-10, 2013, the U.S. House of Representatives Energy & Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power held hearings, a markup, and a vote regarding several pieces of energy legislation, including H.R. 1900, the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Act, and H.R. 1582, the Energy Consumers Relief Act of 2013, and H.R. 83, which addresses issues related to developing a plan to address energy needs of insular areas of the nation and Freely Associated States.  In the July 10th vote, the Subcommittee passed all three bills, a brief summary of which are provided below.  On Tuesday, July 16th, the full Committee on Energy and Commerce will hold opening statements for a markup of the bills and the full Committee will vote on the bills Wednesday, July 17th.

            H.R. 1900 The Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Act: The Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Act establishes a timeline for the review and resolution of applications submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) and other agencies related to natural gas pipeline projects.  Under H.R. 1900, FERC must make a final determination to approve or deny an application for certificate of public convenience and necessity related to a pipeline project within 12 months of its submission.  The agencies responsible for permits, licenses or other approvals related to such pipeline projects must make a determination within 90 days of FERC issuing its final environmental document related to the project, or within 120 days if FERC grants an extension request.  If the timeline is not adhered to by an agency, the license, permit or agency approval automatically takes effect.  A hearing on the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Act was held on July 9th, during which the Subcommittee heard testimony from energy market participants, related organizations, and the Honorable Philip D. Moeller, Commissioner of FERC.  The testimony of FERC Commissioner Moeller offered insight into anticipated challenges that may arise with the passage of H.R. 1900, including the need to clarify that FERC’s 12-month timeline should begin once an application is deemed completed and that, without rigorous oversight of agencies to prioritize these pipeline applications, the agencies may feel pressured by the timeline, resulting in the denial of applications or the erection of procedural barriers for applicants.  Additional information about the H.R. 1900 hearing, including a webcast and copies of witness testimony can be found here.

            H.R. 1582, The Energy Consumers Relief Act of 2013: The Energy Consumers Relief Act of 2013 requires additional scrutiny of rules promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) that are energy related and may cost more than $1 billion.  Under H.R. 1582, the EPA cannot issue a final energy-related rule that is estimated to cost more than $1 billion if the Secretary of Energy makes a determination that the rule will result in significant adverse effects to the economy.  The Bill requires the EPA to submit reports to Congress that include estimates of the resulting increase in energy prices, including potential increases in consumer gasoline or electricity prices, as well as the potential impact on the employment outlook, for any rule that is estimated to cost more than $1 billion.  The Secretary of Energy is required to work with FERC and the Energy Information Administration to assess the potential impact of the rule, and to consult with the Secretary of Commerce, the Administrator of the Small Business Administration, and the Secretary of Labor in its determination regarding the impact of the proposed EPA rule on the economy.

            H.R. 83: Under H.R. 83, the Secretary of the Interior is required to create a team composed of technical, policy, and financial experts to develop and to assist in implementing an action plan addressing the energy needs of the insular areas of American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands, and the Freely Associated States of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau.  Reports after one year to the Secretary of Interior and to Congress regarding the team’s progress are required.

            Additional details about H.R. 1900, H.R. 1582, and H.R. 83, are available in the Subcommittee’s Press Release and information about the Subcommittee markup, and vote, including a webcast of the vote opening statements, are available here.  Information on the upcoming full Committee vote can be found here.

Brian Heslin

About Brian Heslin

Brian Heslin represents energy companies in regulatory proceedings at the state and federal level. In addition, he provides advice on busines and strategic planning, upstream natural gas supply and capacity negotiation, compliance and other related services.

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The landscape of the energy industry is rapidly changing, with a focus on the development of clean, domestic energy sources and a secure, reliable energy infrastructure driving significant changes in the interdependency of energy industry segments and an increase in government regulation. Continued growth in the domestic production of oil and natural gas has positioned the U.S. to be an energy exporter in the global market and will have a marked impact on the course of the industry’s development.

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