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Committee Releases Federal Pipeline Bill Limiting Community & Environmental Review

Date : Wed, 17 Jul 2013 14:43:43 -0400

Community & Environmental Review

For Immediate Release

July 17, 2013

Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

Committee Releases Federal Pipeline Bill Limiting Community & Environmental Review

Today the US House Energy and Commerce Committee passed the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act (HR 1900) which will severely limits public participation and environmental review in the federal pipeline approval process. The bill was reported from Committee with amendments and passed 28-14. Congressman Leonard Lance supported the bill while, Congressman Frank Pallone voted no. The pipelines carry fracked gas and could be used to supply proposed export facilities.

"This is a bill that sells out public participation and environmental protections to the big oil and gas companies.The purpose is to further weaken already weak rules at FERC when it comes to building pipelines and to make that agency a virtual rubberstamp for the industry they are supposed to regulate.This legislation would weaken NEPA and the Clean Water Act and allow more eminent domain abuse by greedy gas companies.This bill is so bad because it will encourage more fracking and LNG exports," said Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Sierra Club. "We thank Congressman Pallone for voting against the bill.Congressman Lance voted in favor selling out not only the environment, but his own community and the open space he has always been a champion of. We will keep fighting this bill in the House and Senate.This is not reform, it is a sellout."

The bill would establish an arbitrary timeline for federal agencies to review the projects.This is concerning as in the past we have seen companies in the past drag their feet on providing additional information on health, safety, and environmental impacts.Under the legislation, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) must come to a decision within twelve months and all other federal regulators would have 90 days after FERC released its environmental review of the project.If those federal agencies do not act within those time frames, the approval would automatically go into effect.

"By requiring agencies to automatically approve licenses and permits if no decision is made within 90 days undercuts the ability of these agencies to fully review and mitigate potential impacts," said Jeff Tittel."Setting the 90 day time frame would also undermine the Clean Water Act by limiting public participation and review which could lead to more water pollution and less compliance with the Clean Water Act."

Already about 90 percent of applications are processed by FERC within 12 months.More damaging and complicated projects can take longer due to necessary review by regulating agencies and the public. The most complex projects only take two and half years to review according to the Government Accountability Office.This could result in more environmental damage down the road as problems are missed in the rush to approve by understaffed agencies overburdened by applications from the rapidly expanding gas industry.Other projects could be denied simply because there is not enough time to review complex applications.

This bill is especially important in New Jersey where we have seen six pipeline projects in the past five years to serve fracking operations in the Marcellus Shale gas fields.Tennessee Gas has constructed two projects in Sussex, Passaic, and Bergen counties that have impacted some of our most sensitive state parks, the Delaware River, and the Monksville Reservoir.The Spectra pipeline cuts through some of the most populated areas of New Jersey- Jersey City and Bayonne.Transco has two projects, one under review, in Mercer, Somerset, Hunterdon, Essex, Passaic, and Bergen counties.Both Transco projects cut through Congressman Lance's district. Columbia's East Side Expansion will expand pipeline infrastructure in Gloucester County.

These pipeline projects result in the destruction of environmentally-sensitive lands, including threatened and endangered species habitat, wetlands, contiguous forests, and preserved lands.Increased erosion harms our waterways and creates more flooding.More invasive species spread along the project right-of-way.

These pipelines are being built to serve fracking operations in the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania.More pipelines encourage development of those gas fields resulting in more devastating environmental impacts.This bill would help put in pipelines more quickly to serve export facilities currently being proposed.Exporting gas would hurt the US economy according to studies by the Energy Information Administration and Purdue University.

"Our communities and environment deserve a robust and thorough review and opportunities for public participation when new gas infrastructure is proposed.Stopping the acceleration of gas pipeline reviews as proposed is critical to ensuring communities continue to have a say in projects that will impact their safety and the health of their environment," said Kate Millsaps, Conservation Program Coordinator, NJ Sierra Club.

Kate Millsaps
Conservation Program Coordinator
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
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Received on 2013-07-17 11:43:43

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