U.S. Pipeline Needs Dealt a Setback by NWP 12 Ruling
Posted May 12, 2020
Americans everywhere should be concerned about a federal judge’s decision in Montana that could significantly delay the safe and timely construction of new natural gas and oil pipelines across the country.
In a ruling Monday, U.S. District Judge Brian Morris excluded only the “construction of new oil and gas pipelines” from the Nationwide Permit 12 program (NWP 12). The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers uses NWP 12 to authorize a number of utility/infrastructure construction and maintenance projects crossing certain streams and wetlands where there is minimal effect on the environment. Paul Afonso, API senior vice president and chief legal officer:
“API is disappointed that Judge Morris singled out the construction of new oil and gas pipelines from using Nationwide Permit 12. We are weighing all options moving forward and will continue working to ensure that these permits remain accessible to natural gas and oil projects deemed to have minimal environmental impacts. Natural gas and oil infrastructure provides the energy Americans use each and every day and well-paying jobs for workers throughout the country, and the companies who produce and transport that energy should not be arbitrarily disallowed from this regulatory process.”
Nationwide Permits are used for projects deemed necessary for the public interest and that have minimal adverse environmental impacts. To prohibit new natural gas and oil projects from utilizing NWP 12 is arbitrary and actually could make it harder to protect the environment. As written, the ruling doesn’t define “new construction,” so replacing worn-out sections of a pipeline could actually require new and lengthy permitting review.
The larger point is that delays and uncertainties associated with Morris’ ruling could hinder needed pipeline projects, which would be bad for the country, the economy and Americans’ daily lives. API analysis shows more than 70 U.S. pipeline projects in development could be impacted by this decision.
Pipelines are essential energy infrastructure, second to none in their ability to safely deliver natural gas and oil from where it is produced and processed to consumers. The nation needs more pipelines to fully harness the benefits of American energy, specifically to serve parts of the country that currently are under-served due to a lack of pipeline capacity.
API, along with the North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) and the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, weighed in when Morris made his first ruling last month and that concern still applies. NABTU President Sean McGarvey commented further:
“Nationwide Permit 12 is critical to the responsible and efficient development and maintenance of vital energy infrastructure projects across America, and this ruling is yet another roadblock placed in front of the middle-class construction jobs that these critical energy projects support. This decision creates tremendous uncertainty in an already uncertain time and could hurt workers and jobs at a time when America needs them most.”
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 six grandchildren.