On November 21, 2013, the House voted 252-165 in favor of H.R. 1900, also known as the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act (“Act”), to expedite the process for obtaining a pipeline permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The bill, which was introduced by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), would add the following new provisions to section 7 of the Natural Gas Act:
First, FERC would be required to approve or deny an application for a gas pipeline permit within 12 months after providing public notice of the application.
Second, other agencies responsible for issuing licenses, permits or approvals in connection with the siting, construction, expansion or operation of a gas pipeline would be required to approve or deny authorization within 90 days after FERC issues a final environmental impact statement. This deadline may be extended for an additional 30 days upon petition to FERC if circumstances beyond an agency’s control warrant such an extension.
Third, if an agency does not approve or deny the issuance of a license, permit or approval within the time period specified above, such authorization shall be deemed approved.
During debate on Thursday, Democrats proposed five amendments that ultimately failed. Perhaps the most notable amendment was made by Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL), who moved to strike the provision that requires FERC to automatically issue other agencies’ permits if the 90-day deadline is missed. Other failed amendments would have tolled the time limits until FERC has considered jurisdictional objections, required the applicant to provide a concrete methane mitigation plan before consideration of an application, delayed the Act’s implementation so long as sequestration is in effect and replaced the bill entirely with an alternative proposal mandating that the Government Accountability Office complete a study analyzing potential agency delays in the issuance of permits.1
It is unlikely that the bill will pass in the Democrat-led Senate, and, if it does, reports from the White House claim that the President will likely veto the bill.2 T However, if the bill does become law, FERC staff may require additional resources to meet the new deadlines. To see our past correspondence on H.R. 1900, please visit this page.