Targeting Energy Infrastructure Red Tape
Posted April 11, 2019
Cutting bureaucratic red tape and making federal decisions on energy infrastructure more efficient and timely are important steps toward ensuring that Americans in all parts of the country may be connected to the benefits of the U.S. energy revolution.
That’s what we see in the president’s two new executive orders affecting energy infrastructure – greater efficiency and timeliness in federal reviews, without compromising thorough environmental scrutiny.
The United States leads the world in natural gas and oil production, yet not every American, not every manufacturer and not every region of the country is adequately connected to America’s energy abundance – and won’t be without new and/or expanded pipelines and other infrastructure to deliver energy to markets and consumers. API President and CEO Mike Sommers:
“Bureaucratic barriers have crippled an otherwise strong regulatory regime, preventing the construction of essential infrastructure and unnecessarily contributing to an energy disparity in America. We applaud the Administration for their commitment to building America’s pipeline infrastructure, enabling the safe delivery of energy and creating the jobs that working families and businesses rely on each and every day.”
There shouldn’t be an “energy disparity” in the world’s leading energy nation. The U.S. needs federal reviews of infrastructure projects to be on time and appropriate so that projects can move forward, not languish in uncertainty. Energy infrastructure is too critical to our economy and security to be snarled in red tape – bureaucratic processes that may be exploited by natural gas and oil opponents to force delays that are tantamount to a “no” for worthy projects.
Americans agree. New polling finds that 79 percent support streamlining or expediting the permitting process to improve, modernize, or construct critical energy infrastructure, including pipelines.
There’s help in the presidential Executive Orders, which seek to streamline federal processes in energy infrastructure development:
- First, EPA is ordered to review guidance and regulations for Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act. Section 401 governs state agencies’ issuance of water quality certifications, which are needed before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission can issue a pipeline project’s Certificate for Public Necessity.
The second Executive Order makes clear that that Presidential Permits for cross-border infrastructure, including pipelines, do not require a National Environmental Protection Act review because they are executive – not agency – actions that serve foreign policy interest.
Both are affirmative steps to modernize a federal review process that needs to keep pace with a U.S. natural gas and oil revolution, accelerated by innovation and advanced technologies. Sean McGarvey, president of North America’s Building Trades Unions:
“All of the major pipelines our building trades members build employ the most advanced technology and monitoring systems and maintenance plans. Furthermore, research has proven that pipelines are the safest, most economical and environmentally friendly mode of transporting energy. We appreciate this administration working to ease permitting delays on vitally important projects that create good jobs and ensure clean, safe and affordable energy for communities across this great nation.”
Safe, modern pipelines are critically important for our economy and for U.S. consumers. Access to abundant natural gas and oil saved Americans more than $300 billion in energy spending in 2016 compared to 2010. Infrastructure is access. API’s Robin Rorick told a Senate subcommittee this week that a 2017 study estimated the United States will need up to $1.3 trillion in energy infrastructure investment through 2035. Rorick:
“Ensuring we have a robust energy infrastructure system that keeps pace with growing production and demand is essential to helping provide American families and businesses with reliable access to affordable energy. … Whether it is powering our nation’s electricity grid, delivering natural gas to heat homes during harsh winters, or providing emergency fuel for first responders during natural disasters, this investment will ensure that these critical fuels are delivered when and where they are needed most.”
So, kudos to the administration for seeing the primacy of energy to the nation’s well-being and security and for taking action that will reduce needless delays without hindering careful technical and environmental review. And for recognizing that a lack of infrastructure is harming some parts of the country, which industry has been pointing out for some time. From the Executive Order:
Within 180 days of the date of this order, the Secretary of Transportation, in consultation with the Secretary of Energy, shall submit a report to the President ... regarding the economic and other effects caused by the inability to transport sufficient quantities of natural gas and other domestic energy resources to the States in New England and, as the Secretary of Transportation deems appropriate, to States in other regions of the Nation. This report shall assess whether, and to what extent, State, local, tribal, or territorial actions have contributed to such effects.
National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons:
“For years, manufacturers have advocated a modernized permitting process, and this administration has listened, providing much needed clarity to often confusing or unpredictable rules and regulations. With these new tools in hand, manufacturers are not only empowered to make new investments in our people and our communities but also to keep our promise to deliver responsible environmental stewardship.”
About The Author
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Previously, Mark was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor at an assortment of newspapers. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela have two grown children and five grandchildren.
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