U.S. Senate to debate bill on reducing federal permit delays on pipelines

Gas pipeline
Source: DollarPhotoClub

A new bipartisan legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate on Monday that aims to help reduce flaring, and capture and process more natural gas across North Dakota and other oil and natural gas producing states. The legislation aims to lessen the wastage of natural gas at the wellbore by reducing federal permit delays for pipeline siting.

The Bill, introduced by Senator Heidi Heitkamp’s with Republican Senator John Barrasso from Wyoming, would require the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to respond in a timely manner to permit requests to gather unprocessed natural gas on federal and Indian lands. The agency’s current, extended process for issuing decisions on applications has delayed efforts to reduce flaring, which prevents states like North Dakota from fully harnessing all of the natural gas extracted, capturing the gas in a cleaner way, or creating certainty for the oil and gas industry and workers as they try to build out the infrastructure necessary to capture and transport natural gas.

“Part of committing to an all-of-the-above energy strategy means staying mindful of commonsense solutions,” said Heitkamp in a press release.

“We can do that by preventing our energy resources from getting unnecessarily bogged down by government red-tape. In North Dakota, we can do more to reduce flaring and fugitive methane emissions, and harness more of our natural gas. But too many permit requests to gather unprocessed natural gas have been met with federal delays – and that’s exactly what our bill works to change. It would set responsible deadlines to provide certainty to the energy industry and enable us to reduce flaring, while also respecting our federal-tribal government relationships and commitment to consultation with tribal governments.”

“The federal government must stop dragging its feet on an all-of-the-above energy strategy,” she continued, “as we need an energy strategy that allows for continued, responsible energy production by reducing harmful environmental impacts, wasting fewer resources, and respecting our tribal governments – and I’ll continue to push for such an approach.”

Last September, the Senate unanimously passed Heitkamp’s bill to reauthorize and make permanent a federal program that brought multiple agencies involved in energy permitting under one roof to review oil and gas permits on public lands more efficiently and effectively.

Heitkamp’s bill, the Natural Gas Gathering Enhancement Act, would require the U.S. Department of the Interior to streamline the permitting process for gas gathering lines on federal and Indian lands, which collect natural gas from oil and gas wells and export it to natural gas processing plants, by:

  1. Requiring Quick Federal Responses To Permit Requests: The bill would require the Secretary of the Interior to issue responses to gas gathering line permit requests on federal or Indian lands within 90 days, and to determine whether applications would violate the Endangered Species Act or the National Historic Preservation Act. These deadlines would give the oil and gas industry and workers more certainty regarding plans to capture and ship unprocessed natural gas and move it to common carrier pipelines or processing plants while also increasing efforts to reduce the environmentally harmful impact of flaring across the country.
  2. Requiring Federal Reports on Natural Gas Gathering: The bill would require the Secretary of the Interior to issue an initial study one year after enactment on additional measures to expedite the movement of natural gas by pipeline on federal and Indian Lands. It also calls for annual reports to Congress on progress in expediting natural gas gathering on federal and Indian lands, as well as to clearly identify hindrances to those efforts. The study and reports would help Congress pinpoint obstacles to energy production, so it can remove unnecessary barriers and provide necessary support.
  3. Exempting Tribal Lands from being Required to Participate: The bill would exempt Indian lands from participation in the new permit process, unless tribal governments explicitly opt-in to the new process. These provisions are in keeping with the federal government’s treaty obligations and need for consultation with tribes, critical to building strong federal and tribal governmental relations.

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