The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration (“TSA”) issued a Security Directive, “Enhancing Pipeline Cybersecurity” on May 28, laying out new cybersecurity requirements for operators of liquids and natural gas pipelines and LNG facilities designated as critical infrastructure. (more…)
On May 27, 2021, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) indicated that it would increase the timeline for making a decision on five pending applications for Natural Gas Act (NGA) Section 7 certificates of public convenience and necessity when it issued notices of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) to each of the project sponsors. Each of the applications concern pipeline expansion projects that were the subject of environmental assessments (EAs) performed by FERC staff. The notices state that the new EISs will tier off of the existing EAs and will be limited in scope to assisting FERC in its consideration of the subject projects’ contribution to climate change in the FERC decision-making process.
On May 19, 2021, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued an order dismissing rehearing requests (Dismissal Order) of its February 18, 2021, Order Establishing Briefing in Algonquin Gas Transmission, LLC (Docket No. CP16-9-012) (Briefing Order). The Briefing Order had found that concerns raised regarding the operation of a compressor station that FERC had authorized to place into service on September 24, 2020, warranted further consideration. FERC set the matter for a paper hearing, with deadlines established for initial and reply briefs. The Briefing Order drew fierce criticism in dissents by Commissioners Mark Christie and James Danly on grounds that FERC was acting outside of its statutory authority and resulted in over 100 comments and briefs filed by a diverse group of pipeline industry members and advocates, environmental nongovernmental organizations and consumer groups, and former FERC commissioners as well as requests for rehearing by the affected pipeline and four individual trade associations representing pipeline operators, investors, and shippers.
On May 4, 2021, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission) issued Order No. 871-B, an Order Limiting Authorizations to Proceed with Construction Activities. The order revises FERC regulations at 18 C.F.R. § 157.23(b) enacted in July 2020 following the issuance of Order No. 871.
The regulation now prohibits authorizations to proceed with construction for pipeline or liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal facilities from issuing if a timely request for rehearing of a certificate order has been filed specifically opposing project construction, operation, or need until (1) the request is no longer pending before FERC, (2) the record of the proceeding has been filed with the court of appeals, or (3) 90 days have passed after the date that the request for rehearing may be deemed to have been denied under the Natural Gas Act’s (NGA) rehearing provisions at 15 U.S.C. § 717r(a).
On March 22, 2021, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission) for the first time issued an order that assessed whether greenhouse gas emissions related to a natural gas pipeline certificate project would significantly contribute to climate change. FERC purported to perform the assessment pursuant to its obligation under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to take a “hard look” at a project’s environmental impacts.
On March 10, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit rejected a challenge to an opinion by the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) allowing a South Texas liquified natural gas (LNG) pipeline project to proceed. Sierra Club, et al. v. U.S. Department of Interior, et al. involved a proposed LNG pipeline that would pass through Cameron, Willacy, Kenedy, and Kleburg counties in south Texas. (more…)
On February 18, 2021, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) reopened the comment period for its Notice of Inquiry (NOI) on the Certification of New Interstate Natural Gas Facilities. FERC applies its current policy, issued in 1999, to assess whether to issue interstate natural gas transportation facilities a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN), a foundational permit required for their construction and operation. FERC must abide with its obligations under the Natural Gas Act and National Environmental Policy Act when considering pipeline certificate applications. FERC initially issued the NOI in April 2018, seeking comment on whether, and if so how, it should revise its approach to evaluating CPCN applications. The docket has been pending for nearly three years.
On January 20, 2021, President Joe Biden issued an executive order, “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis.” The order directs executive agency heads to review hundreds of agency actions implemented during the Trump administration, including more than 120 related to energy and the environment. In addition, the order suspends or revokes, in whole or in part, nearly one dozen executive orders issued by the prior president directly tied to energy infrastructure.
On August 3, 2020, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) released a prepublication version of a proposal to reissue and modify its existing 52 nationwide permits (NWPs) and issue five new NWPs. The Corps issues NWPs to authorize categories of activities in jurisdictional waters and wetlands under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act that will result in no more than minimal individual and cumulative adverse environmental effects. The Corps typically updates NWPs every five years, and the current NWPs are scheduled to expire on March 18, 2022. However, in response to President Donald Trump’s March 18, 2017, Executive Order 13783, which directed the heads of federal agencies to review regulations that potentially burden domestic energy production, the Corps identified nine NWPs that could be modified. In addition to revising those nine NWPs, the Corps is proposing to reissue the remaining NWPs so that all NWPs are on the same five-year cycle.
On July 6, 2020, Judge James E. Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia vacated the easement that had been granted to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) under the Mineral Leasing Act and ordered DAPL to be shut down in 30 days. (more…)