Congress passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill (H.R. 2029) that contains a provision to end the United States’ ban on crude oil exports and earmarks for funding the federal pipeline safety program.  The measure passed in the House (316-113) and the Senate (64-33) on Friday, December 18, and was signed by President Obama later that day.

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FERC recently published a revised draft Guidance Manual for Environmental Report Preparation for review and public comment. The revised Guidance Manual updates FERC’s 2002 guidance manual on environmental report preparation for projects seeking FERC authorization under the Natural Gas Act (NGA), supplementing the previous guidance as well as adding new sections explaining requirements for environmental report preparation.
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At an emergency press conference held today by the United States Department of Transportation (DOT), Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx announced that DOT has issued a one-time approval for special operating authority to engage in air transportation to specified markets.  The approval will be limited in duration, valid only from the evening of December 24

Further Regulation of Underground Natural Gas Storage is under consideration by several state and federal agencies. Gas storage helps moderate supply and demand. As a result, natural gas and related gas products have been stored underground for many years, either in depleted oil or gas field formations, aquifers or salt caverns. Above ground aspects of this storage are regulated by a variety of federal and state agencies, but to date there has not been significant regulation of underground storage facility siting, construction or operation. Several states have been considering new regulations over underground gas storage (e.g., Texas and Kansas), and a recent leak from SoCal’s Aliso Canyon gas storage facility near Los Angeles has drawn national attention to the issue generally.

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A bipartisan group of Senators who serve on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation introduced a Pipeline Safety Act reauthorization bill in November, the Securing America’s Future Energy: Protecting Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (SAFE PIPES) Act [link], Senate Bill 2276. That bill was approved by the Committee on December 9, 2015 with five amendments.
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In a recent Final Rule, PHMSA delayed indefinitely the effective date of its new amendment to 49 C.F.R. Part 192.305 concerning construction inspections, and agreed to consider an exception to the new requirement in Part 192.153(e) that ASME pressure vessels be pressure tested at 1.5 times MAOP.
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Environmental groups often seek to delay or stop pipeline projects by filing legal challenges under various state and federal environmental and/or energy laws. Recent court decisions have illustrated the difficult nature of such challenges, and in particular the difficulty environmental groups have in making a threshold showing of the legal basis for their challenge. An offshoot of the well-established principle that a litigant cannot raise someone else’s rights in court, the legal doctrine of ‘standing’ requires a litigant to demonstrate its interest in an actual case or controversy as a preliminary requirement for a case to be heard and decided in a court of law. In addition, a litigant citing a particular statute as the basis for a lawsuit must establish that it has an interest at stake that is within the ‘zone of interests’ protected by that statute.

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