The House voted Wednesday to streamline the federal permitting process for a variety of oil and natural gas pipelines.
Lawmakers voted 248-179 on the Promoting Interagency Coordination for Review of Natural Gas Pipelines Act, a bill by Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) to designate the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) as the lead agency for interstate gas pipeline permitting and require other agencies to coordinate with FERC and conduct simultaneous reviews.
The chamber also voted 254-175 to pass the Promoting Cross-Border Energy Infrastructure Act, a bill by Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) to give FERC responsibility for permitting oil and gas pipelines and electric transmission lines that cross the Canadian or Mexican borders, such as the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline.
That bill would remove the requirement that such projects obtain permits from the president and would end the State Department’s leading role in those decisions.
{mosads}To the GOP, the bills fit within the theme of the week: removing barriers — environmental or otherwise — to production, transportation and use of domestic fossil fuels and other sources of energy.
But Democrats objected, saying the pipeline bills would exacerbate climate change by encouraging fossil fuel use, and that they would shortcut the environmental review process.
Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s energy panel, said the gas pipeline bill “will streamline the permit process for the building of energy infrastructure, which will strengthen our economy, create the jobs that we want and, in fact, increase our energy security.”
With FERC leading gas pipeline reviews, “this bill is going to bring greater certainty, accountability and transparency to the siting process for interstate natural gas pipelines,” he said.
Upton said the cross-border pipeline bill would work to take politics out of the approval process. He cited Keystone XL as an example of pipelines that “faced significant and unnecessary delays as a result of political interference in what should have been a straightforward review,” due to former President Barack Obama’s years-long delay of the permit and eventual 2015 decision to deny it.
“Establishing the cross-border permit process in law would lead to more objective and timely decisions, which in turn is going to create the jobs, jumpstart our nation’s energy security and support affordable and reliable energy for all Americans,” he said.
President Trump approved Keystone earlier this year, but it still needs a permit from Nebraska before construction can begin.
Rep. Kathy Castor (Fla.), who led debate for Democrats, accused the GOP of working to exacerbate climate change with the bills.
“A modern, American, 21st century energy infrastructure must address the threat of climate change,” she said. “This is the biggest energy challenge that we face as a country. We cannot have a meaningful conversation about America’s energy infrastructure without also having a conversation about the changing climate, and the huge costs heaped on hard-working American families and businesses because of the changing climate.”
Castor said FERC already approves 90 percent of gas pipelines within a year, making the GOP bill unnecessary.
On the cross-border bill, Castor pointed out that environmental review for projects would be limited solely to the portion of a pipeline that crosses the border.
“Who thought that up?” Castor asked. “Very creative.”
Tags Barack Obama Bill Flores

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