SENATE ENERGY COMMITTEE MOVES PIPELINE COORDINATOR LEGISLATION
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate Energy Committee today moved legislation sponsored by Senator Murkowski that will speed the full functioning of the Office of Pipeline Coordinator. The legislation facilitates the hiring of personnel in the Office of the Pipeline Coordinator, allows the coordinator to establish reasonable filing and service fees and clarifies the intent of the Natural Gas Pipeline Act regarding litigation.
“This legislation accelerates the process of building an Alaskan Gas Pipeline,” said Senator Murkowski. “A gas pipeline is essential for Alaska’s future. We want to make sure that the Pipeline Coordinator has the tools necessary to successfully manage this project and quickly get Alaska’s gas to market.”
The legislation passed by the Senate Energy Committee today includes 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: 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: 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.