The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Fill FERC Vacancies to Avoid Energy Infrastructure Delays

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted February 9, 2017

API and more than a dozen trade associations would like President Trump to swiftly nominate people to fill three vacancies on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the five-member panel that plays a big role in approving energy infrastructure projects. With just two members currently, FERC lacks a quorum to conduct business.

In a letter to the president, the groups say the FERC situation prevents action on a range major policy decisions, including rate-making for natural gas and oil pipelines, the siting and permitting of natural gas pipelines and liquefied natural gas facilities and market rules for electricity providers. The letter talks about significant impacts to the country if projects can’t go forward because FERC needs at least three members to take action:

Such delays and inaction could have profound negative impacts for the nation’s electric, natural gas, and oil customers given the need for strong national energy infrastructure and enhanced market access and opportunities.

FERC is down to two members with last week’s resignation of former Chairman Norman Bay. The good news is the agency approved three important infrastructure projects right before Bay’s departure. They are:

  • Atlantic Sunrise pipeline, a $3 billion project that would move shale natural gas through Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, with some gas going to the liquefied natural gas export facility at Cove Point, Md.

atlantic_sunrise_map

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  • Northern Access, a $455 million project that will bring natural gas into New York, New England, the Midwest and Canada.

Late last month, FERC also approved construction of Atlantic Bridge, a $450 million project that will expand natural gas transport from Pennsylvania into New England and Canada.

Each of these projects represent the kind of energy infrastructure this country needs, to connect producing areas and energy hubs with customers. The lack of adequate natural gas capacity is particularly acute in New England, as we’ve noted before.

The president’s FERC nominations require Senate confirmation. With the Senate currently focused on confirming members of President Trump’s cabinet, there’s concern that action on a FERC nominee could be delayed. More from the trade associations’ letter:

Given our shared sense of the importance of regulatory certainty in promoting energy infrastructure investment and just and reasonable rates, we are aligned in urging the Administration to promptly nominate candidates to fill the Commission’s three existing vacancies as quickly as possible so a quorum can be reconstituted without undue delay.

The president supports infrastructure construction, signing an executive order on Jan. 24 that calls for expediting pipeline permitting. By moving as quickly as possible to restore a quorum at FERC, the president will help ensure that projects receive the federal review and approvals they need to go forward.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Green joins API after spending 16 years as national editorial writer in the Washington Bureau of The Oklahoman newspaper. In all, he has been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years, including six years as sports editor at The Washington Times. He lives in Occoquan, Virginia, with his wife Pamela. Mark graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in journalism and earned a masters in journalism and public affairs at American University. He's currently working on a masters in history at George Mason University, where he also teaches as an adjunct professor in the Communication Department.