Posted July 5, 2017
Earlier this year we posted about the lack of a quorum at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and how that could delay important energy infrastructure projects across the country – including a number of natural gas pipelines that would help distribute gas and its benefits to consumers, businesses, manufacturers and power generators.
The issue then was making nominations to fill vacancies to the five-member body, which has lacked a quorum to take official actions since January. Now the issue is the U.S. Senate taking timely action to confirm two nominees, Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson, who were approved by the Senate’s energy and natural resources committee last month. With the recent departure of Commissioner Colette Honorable, FERC currently has just one remaining member, Acting Chairwoman Cheryl LaFleur.
The Senate needs to move swiftly – to ensure the integrity and effectiveness of the U.S. infrastructure system, and to help advance broad economic benefits. Dena Wiggins of the Natural Gas Supply Association told the Associated Press:
“There’s no doubt that in order to realize the Trump administration’s vision of a ‘golden age of energy,’ it’s essential to have a quorum at FERC. While we’re not there yet ... I think there’s widespread recognition at the White House and on the Hill that FERC plays a crucial role in moving virtually every (type of) energy across state lines, and that it’s essential to put good people in place at FERC quickly.”
For example, there’s Enbridge’s 36-inch NEXUS natural gas transmission pipeline that would carry gas from the Utica and Marcellus shale plays to users in Ohio, Michigan and other Midwestern markets. The project got final environmental review last November but is on hold because FERC doesn’t have enough commissioners to give its final approval. “We’ve got that race car sitting there revved and all ready to go,” NEXUS President James Grech said last month, “we just need that go ahead.”
Other major natural gas projects that soon could be delayed because of FERC’s lack of a quorum include:
- Atlantic Coast pipeline, expected to receive its final environmental impact statement (EIS) this month.
- PennEast – Final EIS issued in April.
- Mountain Valley – Final EIS issued last month.
- Mountaineer Express – Final EIS expected this month.
- Columbia Gas WB Express – Period for public comment on proposed route modification closed in May.
In addition, another nine projects – including new compressor stations or upgrades and smaller volume increases – could be delayed waiting for a FERC quorum.
The Senate should confirm Chatterjee and Powelson as soon as possible. Jobs, economic growth, consumer benefits and the environmental advantages of increased natural gas use depend on restoring a quorum to FERC. Robin Rorick, API midstream group director:
“With a quorum, the commission will be able to fully evaluate and advance critical infrastructure projects around the nation and to set vital market rules. … Private investment in our nation’s energy infrastructure is a more than $1 trillion proposition that could support an estimated 1 million jobs per year through 2035.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.