On June 9, 2020, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued Order No. 871, a Final Rule Limiting Authorizations to Proceed with Construction Activities Pending Rehearing (Final Rule). The Final Rule is likely to increase project costs for natural gas infrastructure by delaying their regulatory approvals. It prevents FERC from issuing notices to proceed with construction once a developer has received a certificate under sections 3 and 7 of the Natural Gas Act (NGA) until (1) the time for filing of a request for rehearing has expired with no such request or (2) FERC has acted on the merits of a timely filed request for rehearing. NGA sections 3 and 7 are the statutory provisions that empower FERC to authorize natural gas import and export facilities, such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals and natural gas pipelines, respectively.
On December 19, 2018, the U.S. Department of Energy issued a policy statement eliminating from any future export authorization orders the requirement that exporters report where LNG was “received for end use.’’ The relief is a nod to market participants who expressed concerns that exporters often have limited visibility into where their natural gas is ultimately consumed. The policy now will only require that exporters report where the natural gas was “actually delivered.” DOE issued an accompanying blanket order, DOE/FE Order No. 4322, to remove the end use provision from existing authorizations.
On Tuesday, October 11, 2016, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) revealed a pipeline civil penalty framework on its website. PHMSA will allow a respondent in an enforcement case to request a proposed civil penalty calculation related to its case.
PHMSA’s current caps for administrative civil penalties occurring on or after August 1, 2016, are $205,638 per day and $2,056,380 for a related series of violations. PHMSA states that its penalties may exceed the guideline amounts to “serve as a strong deterrence, driving down incident risk.”
PHMSA’s guidelines provide the following “assessment considerations” for determining penalty amounts: nature; circumstances; gravity; culpability; history of prior offenses; good faith; and other matters as justice may require.
On October 6, 2016, Sajid Javid, U.K.’s Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, overruled local objections by granting Cuadrilla Resources permission for up to four horizontally-drilled, high-volume hydraulically-fractured wells to produce natural gas from shale formations in North Lancashire, U.K. The decision marks Britain’s first approval of new wells using the controversial method to produce natural gas from shale since Cuadrilla’s exploratory drilling was halted due to seismic activity in 2011. Earlier this year another producer was granted permission to “frack” a well it had already drilled in 2013.