Another speed-permit LNG export bill: H.R. 3301

LNG export to Canada or Mexico with almost no permitting and no environmental review of anything but the part that crosses the border. That’s H.R. 3301, just passed by the U.S. House of Representatves, but not yet taken up by the Senate, and already the presdent’s administration “strongly opposes” it; so strongly his advisors recommend vetoing it. Apparently H.R. 6 for blanket export to all WTO countries isn’t likely to pass, so fracked methane pushers are trying a similar approach for fewer countries. Get it across the nearest borders, and then export to other countries? Previously listening Sanford Bishop (GA-02 Albany) voted for both bills in the full House.

On, H.R. 3301 – North American Energy Infrastructure Act 113th Congress (2013-2014) and on

North American Energy Infrastructure Act—(Sec. 3) Prohibits any person from constructing, connecting, operating, or maintaining a cross-border segment of an oil or natural gas pipeline or electric transmission facility at the national boundary of the United States for the import or export of oil, natural gas, or electricity to or from Canada or Mexico without obtaining a certificate of crossing under this Act.

Requires the Secretary of State, with respect to oil pipelines, or the Secretary of Energy (DOE), with respect to electric transmission facilities, to issue a certificate of crossing for the cross-border segment within 120 days after final action is taken under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), unless it is not in U.S. public interest.

So the burden of proof that a pipeline is not in the public interest is on opponents, and the bill gets worse from there, for example:

(Sec. 4) Amends the Natural Gas Act to declare that no order of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is required for the export or import of natural gas to or from Canada or Mexico.

So pushing fracked methane from Pennsylvania to Nova Scotia to export through the proposed Goldboro LNG terminal wouldn’t need a permit. Oh, right: it already doesn’t need an export permit, because Spectra already has one! And in case that wasn’t obvious, the bill explicitly says so:

Exempts from such requirement any construction, connection, operation, or maintenance of a cross-border segment if: (1) it is operating for import, export, or electrical transmission upon the date of enactment of this Act; (2) the relevant permit or certificate of crossing has previously been issued under this Act; or (3) an permit application is pending on the date of enactment of this Act, until it is denied or July 1, 2016, whichever occurs first.

And a permit is still required for LNG export to other countries:

Retains: (1) the requirement to obtain approval or authorization under the Natural Gas Act for the siting, construction, or operation of any facility to import or export natural gas, and (2) certain authority of the President under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA).

But remember, three companies already have permits for LNG export from Florida, right where the Sabal Trail pipeline chain would go!

Democrats in the House Energy and Commerce Committee provide some pretty good reasons why it’s a bad bill, including:

The bill, as introduced, replaces the current procedure and requirements to obtain a presidential permit for construction of transboundary oil or natural gas pipelines and electric transmission lines. The bill’s new approval process effectively requires approval of all transboundary pipelines and transmission projects with little or no federal environmental review. Modifications to existing cross-border pipelines or transmission lines would not require any approval or review at all….

The Committee on Energy and Commerce marked up the bill on May 8, 2014. At the markup, Reps. Upton and Green offered an amendment that significantly modified the underlying bill but did not address many of the concerns that had been raised in earlier committee proceedings. The revised language still effectively requires approval of transboundary oil pipeline and transmission projects. Under the revised language, the relevant federal agencies must issue a “certificate of crossing” to a company seeking to build a transboundary oil pipeline or transmission line unless the project is deemed not in the public interest. The revised language significantly narrows the environmental review process to just the segment of the project that crosses the border, ignoring the other environmental impacts along the project’s route. The revised language also allows projects denied under the existing process to reapply under the new process, where approval is almost certain. The Committee favorably reported the bill by a vote of 31-19.

That vote was almost straight party line. Two Democrats, Gene Greeen (TX-29 Houston) and John Barrow (GA-12 Savannah) voted for, while all other Democrats voted Nay and all Republicans voted Yea. However, in the full House vote, Sanford Bishop (GA-02 Albany) also voted for it, which is disappointing after he listened in Albany about the proposed Sabal Trail pipeline. His Sabal Trail listening page on his website is also gone. Maybe his constituents need to talk to him more.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Executive Office of the President (EOB), 24 June 2014, STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY: H.R. 3301 – North American Energy Infrastructure Act

The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 3301, which would require the specified Secretary to issue a “certificate of crossing” for any cross-border segment of an oil pipeline (Secretary of State) or electric transmission facility (Secretary of Energy) within 120 days after the completion of the environmental review, unless the Secretary finds that the cross-border pipeline or electric transmission facility “is not in the public interest of the United States.”

The bill’s 120-day approval requirement would circumvent the current authority for issuing Presidential Permits for cross-border pipelines and transmission facilities provided by Executive Orders 13337 and 10485, as amended, which allow for the full consideration of the complex issues raised by the building of such infrastructure. That process dates back through many Administrations and has effectively addressed cross-border permitting decisions in a manner that serves the national interest.

H.R. 3301 would impose an unreasonable deadline that would curtail the thorough consideration of the issues involved, which could result in serious security, safety, foreign policy, environmental, economic, and other ramifications. By preventing the opportunity for the necessary assessment of all factors relevant to the national interest, the bill would create significant policy risks and create legal uncertainty for permitting applicants. Additionally, the bill would prevent assessment of whether modifications to border-crossing pipelines or electric transmission facilities are in the national interest, which is provided for through the current process.

H.R. 3301 would also raise serious trade implications by eliminating the current statutory requirement that the Department of Energy authorize orders for exports and imports of natural gas to and from Canada and Mexico.

Because H.R. 3301 would circumvent longstanding and proven processes for determining whether cross-border pipelines and electric transmission facilities are in the national interest by removing the Presidential permitting requirement, if presented to the President, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto this bill.

Meanwhile, H.R. 6, for blanket no-permit LNG export authorization to all 159 WTO member countries, also passed the House, on 26 June according to John Barrow (GA-12) actually voted against H.R. 6 in the full House, but Sanford Bishop (GA-02) voted for.

However, gives it only a 20% chance of being enacted, less than the 40% it give H.R. 3301.

This all smells of desperation to market that fracked shale gas somewhere, anywhere. Here’s a brag about how much is being exported, from Scott McKee and David Rosner, for Bipartisan Policy Center, 13 March 2013, While DOE Ponders LNG Permitting, Pipeline Export Volumes Set New Records

The boom in shale gas production, among other factors, has driven U.S. net imports of natural gas to the lowest levels on record since 1990, and these trends only appear to be accelerating. Net imports of natural gas declined in 2012 to about 4.2 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d), according to preliminary estimates released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). This milestone is the combined result of both a 32% decrease in imports and 97% increase in exports since 2007. Total pipeline exports were 4.4 Bcf/d in 2012. For comparison, the United States consumed nearly 70 Bcf/d in 2012.

Meanwhile, U.S. solar power production has gone up more than 400% since 2010. Compare that to a projected 56% increase in shale gas production from 2012 to 2040, over 28 years. Fracked methane is losing rapidly, and digging cross-border escape routes to Canada and Mexico is only going to delay that loss slightly while wasting resources we can use right now to deploy clean, safe, and environmentally friendly solar power right now.


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