FERC Pipeline Siting Program Deals with Legal Challenges

Natural Resources & Environment, Vol. 30 Issue 4 pp.44

April 19, 2016

By Michael R. Pincus

The United States is currently experiencing an unprecedented growth in natural gas production and infrastructure development. The Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration (EIA)-the nation's statistical and analytical agency for tracking the production, flow, and use of energy--estimates total domestic dry natural gas production was approximately 31.3 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) in 2014, up from 23.4 Tcf in 2005, before the shale gas revolution. The prolific production in the Marcellus and Utica shale regions has led this growth. The surge in production has driven interstate natural gas pipeline companies to request authorization from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)-which has jurisdiction over the siting, construction, and operation of interstate natural gas pipelines pursuant to the Natural Gas Act (NGA)-to construct thousands of miles of pipelines. Between 2009 and 2015, FERC authorized approximately 4,000 miles of pipeline projects according to EIA and FERC estimates.

At the same time, FERC's profile has risen. Between nomination fights over commissioner seats and being mentioned on the Beltway drama House of Cards, FERC, a once-sleepy agency, is operating under greater scrutiny. FERC is under almost constant fire from environmental groups and landowners that oppose the construction of new or expanded pipelines and liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, drilling, and hydraulic fracturing. Protesters are now a relatively common sight outside the doors of 888 First Street NE, and in FERC open meetings. Members of one group even staged a fast last year to protest FERC's pipeline and LNG approvals.

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