Vote Explanation for H.R. 2910 — Promoting Interagency Coordination for Review of Natural Gas Pipelines Act

H.R. 2910, the Promoting Interagency Coordination for Review of Natural Gas Pipelines Act, purports to address a burdensome regulatory review process for the approval of natural gas infrastructure projects. In reality, the bill limits the scope of important environmental and public health analyses that ensure all potential impacts are studied before moving forward with a new project.

Under current law, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is the lead federal agency responsible for reviewing the potential effects of pipeline projects under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Other agencies who conduct supplemental reviews, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of the Interior, and the Army Corps of Engineers, have to make a final authorization no later than 90 days after the commission completes its environmental review.

As written, this bill short circuits the process for considering natural gas pipeline project applications by setting up a new, more limited role for agencies not designated by FERC as “participating” agencies in the authorization process. The bill would allow FERC to establish the scope of the environmental review and conditionally approve projects with incomplete environmental impact analysis, which could result in irreversible harm to our environment and public health.

Reducing government regulation is an admirable goal, but this bill goes too far by eliminating not useless regulations but protections that are important to public health. In doing so, it is another example of legislation in search of a problem. During the Obama Administration, an estimated 90% of pipeline projects were approved. In fact, the approval rate has gone down to 88% in the first few months of the Trump Administration, but even that rate is still quite high.