High Court Supports Certainty in Natural Gas Pipeline Approval Process
Posted July 7, 2021
To serve consumers, support economic growth and help protect the environment, the U.S. needs more natural gas pipeline infrastructure. Last week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision – that states do not have an outsized authority to block federally approved projects from obtaining the land for those pipeline routes – is a significant step forward for those purposes.
The decision underscores the authority of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) under the federal Natural Gas Act (NGA) to review and approve pipeline projects that demonstrate a public necessity and cross state lines, such as the 116-mile PennEast natural gas pipeline from Pennsylvania to New Jersey.
The NGA delegates the federal government’s eminent domain authority to private parties once FERC has approved and certified the pipeline project, which allows those who invest in and build pipelines to have regulatory certainty and a clear permitting process. Robin Rorick, API vice president for Midstream & Industry Operations:
“The Supreme Court’s decision is critically important to sustaining the clear, orderly process to secure federal approval for construction and expansion of key natural gas infrastructure that crosses state lines. This was the intent of Congress in the Natural Gas Act – that there be certainty in the approval process, so that Americans can have the affordable, reliable energy they depend on every day.”
PennEast successfully negotiated route access with the majority of property owners along the FERC-approved route. But the Delaware company’s effort to obtain some land parcels, with compensation, in which New Jersey holds a property interest was blocked by the state, which argued a private company couldn’t take a state to federal court against the state’s wishes.
The Supreme Court rejected that. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that states surrendered their immunity from the exercise of federal eminent domain power when they ratified the Constitution and that the NGA delegated federal eminent domain authority to a private party.
The important point, again, is the court’s decision removes one kind of impediment to natural gas pipeline construction – which is a good thing for consumers, the economy and the environment.
Affordable, reliable natural gas has helped reduce household energy costs and is the No. 1 fuel for generating U.S. electricity. It also is the primary reason U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector, an important greenhouse gas, are at their lowest levels in a generation. The U.S. needs more natural gas pipelines so the consumer benefits may be realized in currently under-served regions, such as New England and New York.
Indeed, a positive step. Some other comments on the Supreme Court’s decision:
Amy Andryszak, president and CEO of the Interstate Natural Gas Association:
“As the Court acknowledges, the Natural Gas Act has made possible the growth of our nation’s pipeline infrastructure to serve communities across our country. Our nation’s interstate natural gas pipelines make up a vast and critical transportation network, moving approximately one-third of the energy consumed in the United States. In order to continue to harness the benefits of natural gas to achieve our energy and climate goals, we need a predictable regulatory framework that allows improvements and additions to our country’s interstate natural gas transmission infrastructure.”
Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the American Gas Association:
“In enacting the Natural Gas Act, Congress sought to ensure reliable consumer access to natural gas supply at affordable prices. Our interstate energy infrastructure transcends any one individual state and customers need access to an adequate supply of natural gas to meet their energy needs.”
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.
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