Energy Tomorrow Blog
Posted September 25, 2020
A call for environmental justice (EJ) is featured in U.S. House climate legislation being debated in Congress. While the EJ section of House Democrats’ climate plan focuses on environmental goals, one part calls for an energy justice and democracy program at the U.S. Energy Department to reduce energy poverty and to ensure communities have equitable access to energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Building or expanding America’s natural gas pipeline network is key to reducing energy poverty in the U.S. – seeing that Americans, no matter where they live, can get affordable natural gas for home heating, cooking and other uses. Thanks to abundant, affordable natural gas, U.S. power sector emissions of carbon dioxide are at their lowest levels in a generation. Increasing infrastructure capacity, increasing natural gas use, supports this beneficial trend.
Unfortunately, this kind of energy fairness isn’t a reality everywhere in the U.S. Some Americans have no choice but to use wood-burning fireplaces or stoves to heat their homes, due to the lack of safe, reliable pipelines and other infrastructure to get energy where consumers want and need it.
Posted September 2, 2020
While the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completes a new environmental report on the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) in North Dakota, there’s new research showing that shuttering the pipeline would cut oil production from the prolific Bakken shale region, kill thousands of jobs and cost state and local governments millions in tax revenues generated by energy production.
The environmental effects of Dakota Access’ crossing under Lake Oahe are being studied anew after the corps was ordered to do so by a federal court. The review is expected to take 13 months. Although legal challenges surrounding DAPL are pending, an appeals court overturned the lower court’s order to halt operations and empty the pipeline while the environmental review is ongoing.
While we all wait for the review, an ICF analysis commissioned by API shows what halting Dakota Access operations would mean to production and economies.
Posted August 6, 2020
There are two new developments with the federal Nationwide Permit 12 program (NWP 12), which is critically important for key infrastructure projects of all kinds. Both point to the need for a clear, efficient, common-sense permitting program that balances environmental protection with streamlining projects that have limited environmental impacts.
Achieving this is occurring on two tracks. U.S. senators have introduced legislation that would cut red tape and in the short term help reestablish regulatory order and allow infrastructure projects to proceed if they’re following certain species protection rules already in the NWP 12. Meanwhile the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has a proposal that includes renewing more than 50 Nationwide Permits for the next five years. This is important because the permits would expire in March 2022 otherwise.
Posted July 16, 2020
Improvements to the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) – the first modernization proposed in nearly half a century – should help clear red tape that can bog down critical infrastructure projects for years and in the process block job creation and affect environmental protection.
The administration’s priority on updating NEPA to streamline infrastructure projects was clear in that President Trump made the announcement. The Council on Environmental Quality estimates that due to NEPA red tape, the average review takes nearly six years, and the average cost to complete a review is $4.2 million.
Modernization of NEPA is long overdue. NEPA review is a chief reason that building infrastructure has become so challenging in this country. A long menu of infrastructure projects has been impacted by protracted NEPA review, not just natural gas and oil projects (see previous posts here and here). These include airports, traffic improvements, wind farms and more.
Posted July 14, 2020
U.S. energy infrastructure is at an inflection point, with a number of important natural gas and oil pipelines sidetracked by red tape and court decisions within the past few weeks. Most outrageously, the Dakota Access crude oil pipeline, which has been operating safely for three years, was ordered shut down and drained by a federal judge. More on Dakota Access below.
The inflection point is this: Will we build the safe, modern energy infrastructure that broadly serves the public interest, creates thousands of jobs and harnesses abundant domestic natural gas and oil, or will narrow, often extreme interests continue to block the public good?
Posted July 7, 2020
Building and expanding U.S. pipeline infrastructure in this country shouldn’t be so difficult – not considering the critical role pipeline construction and operation play in American energy leadership, job creation and economic growth.
Modern natural gas and oil pipelines are the safe connection between consumers and America’s abundant, reliable, cleaner energy. Additional infrastructure is needed so that no matter where people live, they can be better served – expanding the benefit of domestic energy abundance.
Unfortunately, it has become increasingly challenging to get projects off the drawing board because of almost endless legal maneuvering and government red tape. Both contribute to delay and uncertainty that undermine project investment and completion.
Posted June 24, 2020
As the U.S. Supreme Court weighs a request to delay a lower-court decision to exclude “construction of new oil and natural gas pipelines” from a key federal permitting program, it’s clear the district court’s ruling could seriously harm projects that are critical to strengthening U.S. energy infrastructure.
As many as 75 pipelines in various stages of development could be impacted after last month’s ruling by a federal judge in Montana, who said the Nationwide Permit 12 program (NWP 12) can’t be used for constructing new natural gas and oil pipelines – singling them out among other utility projects that remain NWP 12 eligible. One issue with the district court ruling is that it doesn’t define “pipeline” or what may be covered. The 75 pipelines referred to here include pipelines to deliver natural gas, crude oil and natural gas liquids.
The affected capital investment can be measured in the billions of dollars. Publicly available estimates for the capital costs of just 11 of the 75 projects could exceed $32 billion, which could support nearly 480,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs.
Posted June 4, 2020
EPA has announced its final rule to modernize Section 401 of the Clean Water Act (CWA), which will clarify the jurisdiction of states in issuing required water quality certifications. As discussed in this post, the changes will help the timely advance of needed infrastructure projects – which in some instances EPA believes have been delayed or blocked by states exceeding their Section 401 authority.EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the CWA review process has been abused in the past, holding key infrastructure “hostage.”
Posted May 28, 2020
When New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo talks about building new railroad tunnels under the Hudson River, new subways and airports – as he did Wednesday after a White House meeting with President Trump – he hits the right infrastructure notes – urgency on critical public needs, forming partnerships, getting bureaucracies to move quicker and so on.
Unfortunately, the governor’s bullishness on infrastructure doesn’t extend to natural gas pipelines. Just the opposite. Cuomo and his administration seem to have blocked pipeline projects at every turn – underscoring the need for revisions to the federal Clean Water Act (CWA). I’ll explain.
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. …
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.