Griffith Introduces Bill to Improve Pipeline Approval Process
Tuesday, June 13, 2017 | Jessica Paska (202-225-3861)
June 13, 2017 – Today, Congressman Morgan Griffith (R-VA) introduced the ‘‘Pipeline Fairness and Transparency Act.” Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Mark Warner (D-VA) introduced similar legislation in the Senate. The House and Senate bills were drafted to reflect the concerns of constituents, in regard to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approval process of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). In his bill, Congressman Griffith includes language to reiterate restrictions to eminent domain, protect national scenic trails, and facilitate public meetings and the ability to comment during FERC approval process.
Congressman Griffith said, “This bill is a direct result of feedback from constituents about the need for reform in FERC’s natural gas pipeline approval process. Knowing the long-term impacts of these projects, we must ensure that the right processes are in place so the public can more thoroughly evaluate the effects of a proposed pipeline, and opportunities for engagement should be a priority. This legislation is an important step to ensure that local concerns are addressed, particularly when easements on and takings of private lands for private infrastructure are a possibility.”
“The bill does not indicate whether specific pipelines should be built or not, but it reflects the need to reform this process that Senator Kaine, Senator Warner and I have heard from our constituents.”
Senator Kaine said, “For two years now, Virginians have been sharing their views with me on the MVP and ACP. Many oppose these projects — some support them — but from listening to all sides, what is clear to me either way is that FERC’s public input process needs improvement. Driving two hours through the mountains to a public meeting at which you can speak for two minutes is not public input. Having 90 days to read and comment on 2,000 pages while a dozen other 400-page supplements are trickling out is not public input. FERC’s job is to adjudicate the public interest — especially when eminent domain is involved — and this requires taking public input more seriously. My bill does not mandate MVP and ACP be built, nor does it block them. It simply takes 8 steps — all based on ideas I heard directly from Virginians – to provide a fairer and more transparent basis for the federal government’s decisions about energy infrastructure.”
“Congressman Griffith's legislation is important to assuring transparency and strong decision-making in the permitting process for new interstate natural gas pipelines. The legislation is meaningful in guiding federal regulators in routing decisions concerning the 2,189-mile Appalachian Trail and other congressionally designated national scenic trails," said Ron Tipton, President and CEO of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
The language in the bill is outlined below:
· Restates U.S. federal policy that takings of property through eminent domain should be limited to situations in which the taking is for public, not private, use.
· Requires that takings of land under conservation easement be given compensation for the lost conservation value of the land.
· Adds provisions to the Natural Gas Act, with respect to an interstate natural gas pipeline application for a certificate of public convenience and necessity under NGA Section 7, that:
o Codify requirements that FERC issue a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) if FERC makes substantial changes in the proposed action that are relevant to environmental concerns; or if there are substantial new circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns and bearing on the proposed action or its impacts.
o Require that if a DEIS does not include information about mitigation plans for adverse impacts that cannot reasonably be avoided, an SEIS shall be prepared that includes that information.
o Require that FERC hold a public meeting in each county (or equivalent subdivision) in which the project will be located following each issuance of 1.) a DEIS, 2.) a final EIS (FEIS), and 3.) any SEIS.
· Adds provisions to the Natural Gas Act that would require that in preparing an EIS with respect to an interstate natural gas pipeline application, that any evaluation of the visual impacts of the project on a national scenic trail shall:
o Consider the cumulative visual impacts of any similar proposed project 1.) for which an application for Federal authorization is in the pre-filing or filing stage; and 2.) that impacts the same national scenic trail within 100 miles of the first project.
o Include visual impact simulations depicting leaf-on and leaf-off views at each location where major visual impacts occur, as identified, authenticated, and justified during the period of public comment preceding the publication of a DEIS by the head of the Federal agency or independent agency administering the land at the applicable location.
· Provides that no amendment to a National Forest management plan shall be considered, pursuant to an application for an interstate natural gas pipeline application, if the result of the amendment would substantially interfere with the nature and purposes of a national scenic trail.