FERC to review pipeline certificate policy statement

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Kevin McIntyre on Dec. 21 said that the federal agency will review its policies on certification of natural gas pipelines. The policy governs how the Commission evaluates natural gas pipeline proposals that come before it.

McIntyre said FERC will examine the Policy Statement on Certification of New Interstate Natural Gas Pipeline Facilities, which was issued in 1999, as part of a pledge he made during his Senate confirmation to take a fresh look at all aspects of the agency’s work.

“I believe we in the government should constantly be examining our various processes and procedures to see if we can do anything better,” McIntyre said in a news release issued by FERC. “Much has changed in the energy world since 1999, and it is incumbent upon us to take another look at the way in which we assess the value and the viability of our pipeline applications.”

The next steps will be announced in the near future, McIntyre said, adding that the format and scope of the review are being discussed. But he said that any review of this type would be thorough, and the Commission would invite the views of all stakeholders to ensure that FERC accurately and efficiently assesses the pipeline applications it receives.

“I am approaching this topic with an open mind and want the staff and the Commission to take a fresh look at all aspects of the issue,” he said.

FERC commissioners at the agency’s monthly meeting offered brief comments on the proposed review, with Commissioners Cheryl LaFleur and Richard Glick offering the most specific observations about potential areas of focus.

Both of them suggested, for example, that FERC might perform a broader analysis of the need for a proposed pipeline project rather than focusing primarily on whether a proposed project has secured precedent agreements from potential shippers for pipeline capacity.

LaFleur and Glick also both suggested that FERC review how it conducts project environmental reviews, including assessment of greenhouse gas impacts from new pipeline projects.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Aug. 22 said that FERC's environmental assessment of a set of new natural gas pipelines in the southeastern part of the country fell short because the assessment "did not contain enough information on the greenhouse-gas emissions that will result from burning the gas that the pipelines will carry."

Responding to that decision, staff at FERC on Sept. 27 issued a draft supplemental environmental impact statement for the set of natural gas pipeline projects collectively known as the Southeast Market Pipelines Project.