MURKOWSKI AND STEVENS INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO STREAMLINE APPROVAL OF AN ALASKA GASLINE PROJECT
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators Lisa Murkowski and Ted Stevens today introduced legislation to allow the Office of the Federal Pipeline Coordinator to quickly and efficiently begin its work. The bill allows for more flexibility in hiring personnel, allows the Federal Coordinator to establish reasonable filing and service fees, and clarifies the intent of the Natural Gas Pipeline Act regarding litigation.
In 2004, Congress provided tax credits and loan guarantees to improve chances for construction of an Alaska gas pipeline system. Additionally, Congress created the Office of Federal Pipeline Coordinator to oversee the 15 federal agencies that will have a role to play in construction and financing of a pipeline system. Congress also set up a streamlined permitting and expedited court review process to limit unnecessary delays in the project.
“This legislation will make certain that the Federal government continues to be ready to work with potential contractors and the State of Alaska through the permitting process needed to construct a gasline,” said Senator Murkowski. “The project is too important for our nation’s energy security and Alaska’s economy to be delayed any further.”
“Expediting the Alaska natural gas pipeline construction process is critically important to our State and nation,” said Senator Stevens. “In order to get Alaska’s gas to market in time to compete with foreign LNG, we must ensure the federal review process is not overburdened or unnecessarily prolonged. A fully functioning office for our federal Pipeline Coordinator is essential to achieving this goal.”
Specifically, the legislation introduced today contains the following provisions:
1) Personnel Hiring: A provision that waives the pipeline coordinator from having to follow the time-consuming process of following executive branch hiring procedures for employees in the Federal Coordinator’s Office. The provision should permit the office to be better staffed in six to nine months less than would be required under Title 5, thereby speeding permitting and design issues.
2) Fees and Charges for Permit Reviews: Section 1 (4) of the amendment allows the Federal Coordinator to establish reasonable filing and service fees, charges and commissions for review of pipeline plans submitted by the entity that wins the right to build the line. The fee structure is identical to what the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (Section 304) allows BLM to charge for similar reviews of permits and plans under oil and gas leases. The amendment allows the revenues to go to the Office of Federal Coordinator to pay for personnel needed to permit and oversee construction of a gas pipeline.
3) Clarification of Expedited Court Review Process: Section 2 of the bill clarifies the intent of the 2004 act that all suits related to the permitting or construction of a pipeline project must be filed in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The original law required such filing for challenges related to the pipeline act. In order to remain consistent, this amendment requires that any challenges to the pipeline relating to the Administrative Procedures Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act also be filed in the same circuit.
The Alaska Legislature is currently considering Governor Palin’s Alaska Gasline Inducement Act (AGIA). The legislation defines a competitive process by which the state will choose a gasline project, provides inducements for the construction of a gasline, and contains certain requirements that need to be met by any proposal.