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Federal Court Remands Corps Environmental Analysis for Dakota Access Pipeline

Posted in Environmental
Despite oil already flowing through the pipeline, federal litigation involving the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) took another turn last week when partial summary judgment was granted to tribes challenging the adequacy of the US Army Corps of Engineers’ review of DAPL under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other statutes. Two tribes, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, filed suit in July 2016 attempting to block construction of the last remaining segment and operation of DAPL. As sometimes is the case, agency approvals came faster than the court’s opinion, and without a stay of proceedings DAPL began operating in early June 2017. Having granted partial summary judgment, the court did not require pipeline operations to cease, instead delaying the question of an appropriate remedy until after further briefing by the parties.… Continue Reading

Pipelines and Infrastructure Projects are Front and Center in Administration’s First Days

Posted in Construction & Design, Environmental, Policy
In his first days as President, Donald Trump has issued several directives to expedite pipeline and energy infrastructure projects and bring pipe steel manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. Through an executive order, the President directed federal agencies to expedite environmental reviews and approvals for all infrastructure projects, with emphasis on “high priority” projects such as pipelines.… Continue Reading

Activists Attempt to Shut Down Five Major Oil Pipelines

Posted in Construction & Design, Environmental, Infrastructure Security, Policy
A group referring to itself as “Climate Direct Action” claimed to have shut down five major cross-border oil pipelines in various states on Tuesday October 11, 2016: Minnesota (Enbridge Lines 4 and 67 near Leonard), Montana (Spectra Energy’s Express Pipeline near Coal Banks Landing), North Dakota (TransCanada’s Keystone Pipeline near Walhalla) and Washington State (Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline near Anacortes).… Continue Reading

Standing Rock Dispute Presents Issues Unique to Indian Country

Posted in Environmental, Judicial/ Administrative Decisions, Policy, Public Awareness/ Community Relations
Since the Administration denied a Presidential (border crossing) Permit to the Keystone XL Project in 2015, a number of regional, state or local objections to new pipeline construction projects have emerged around the U.S. Most of the protests have continued themes relied on by opposition to Keystone, including the claim that fossil fuels should remain in the ground in order to limit the impacts of climate change.… Continue Reading

Federal Appellate Review of State Agency Decisions for Interstate Natural Gas Projects Confirmed

Posted in Construction & Design, Environmental, Judicial/ Administrative Decisions, Natural Gas, Policy
The Third Circuit held in a highly anticipated recent decision that state actions on water quality-related permits for interstate natural gas pipeline projects are reviewable only in the federal Circuit Courts of Appeals, in accordance with the Natural Gas Act (NGA). … Continue Reading

Constitution Pipeline Cases Reflect Tension in States’ Roles in Permitting Natural Gas Projects

Posted in Construction & Design, Environmental, Judicial/ Administrative Decisions, Natural Gas, Policy
Recent developments in cases brought by Constitution Pipeline Company to challenge New York’s denial of certain water quality authorizations highlight tensions between federal and state oversight of interstate natural gas pipeline construction projects, and the accompanying potential for costly and protracted delays. … Continue Reading

House Bill Reflects Ongoing Resistance to New Pipeline Construction

Posted in Construction & Design, Environmental, Federal/ State Legislation, Natural Gas, Policy
Recently proposed legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives would require FERC to revise its review process for proposed natural gas pipeline expansion projects to include additional analysis of cumulative impacts in a single region or State and extended environmental monitoring.  While this bill is unlikely to gain traction in the Republican-controlled House, it is indicative… Continue Reading

Another Step Closer to Federal Regulation of Underground Storage

Posted in Administrative Guidance, Environmental, Federal/ State Legislation, Integrity Management, Natural Gas, PHMSA, Policy
The ongoing leak of methane from Southern California Natural Gas Company’s Aliso Canyon/Porter Ranch underground storage field near Los Angeles has drawn national attention to underground natural gas storage, triggering regulatory and legislative efforts to regulate these facilities at federal and state levels.… Continue Reading

Challenging Presidential Permitting Authority

Posted in Environmental, Judicial/ Administrative Decisions, Policy
The question of whether Presidential Permit authority is constitutional and/or subject to judicial review has been and continues to be an unsettled issue.  A little more than a month after the State Department’s November 2015 denial of TransCanada’s application for a Presidential Permit to construct its Keystone XL pipeline project, the United States District Court… Continue Reading

BLM Proposes Sweeping Rules to Curb Methane Emissions

Posted in Administrative Rulemaking, Environmental, Natural Gas, Policy
Consistent with President Obama’s “Climate Action Plan,” the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently released proposed rules intended to significantly curb emissions from new and existing oil and gas production wells on federal and tribal lands. In total, BLM proposes to cut natural gas emissions (from both intentional and unintentional releases) associated with oil and gas… Continue Reading

Advisory Regarding Damage to Pipeline from Flooding Re-Issued

Posted in Administrative Guidance, Environmental, PHMSA
PHMSA has again released an advisory to pipeline operators on the potential for damage to pipeline facilities caused by severe flooding, as well as actions operators should consider taking to ensure the integrity of pipelines in the event of flooding, river scour, and river channel migration.  The advisory is essentially identical to advisories PHMSA has… Continue Reading

Draft Revisions to FERC Environmental Report Manual Available for Comment

Posted in Administrative Guidance, Construction & Design, Environmental, Policy
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. … Continue Reading

Additional Underground Natural Gas Storage Regulation Contemplated

Posted in Environmental, Federal/ State Legislation, PHMSA, Pipeline Safety Act
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… Continue Reading

Pipeline Safety Field Hearing Provides Insight to PHMSA Priorities; Second Hearing Scheduled

Posted in Enforcement, Environmental, Federal/ State Legislation, Integrity Management, PHMSA, Pipeline Safety Act
As the September 30th deadline for the Pipeline Safety Act reauthorization draws near, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation convened a pipeline safety field hearing in Billings, Montana and recently scheduled a second hearing for September 29th in Washington, DC. … Continue Reading

Standing on Shaky Ground: Environmental Challenges to Pipeline Projects Falter in Establishing Basis for Suit

Posted in Environmental, Judicial/ Administrative Decisions, Policy
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… Continue Reading

New Pipeline Construction Issues: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Considers Allowing Incidental Takes Under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act

Posted in Administrative Rulemaking, Construction & Design, Enforcement, Environmental
Construction of new pipeline (especially gas) or other energy infrastructure often encounters issues arising from the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA or Act). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS or the Service) recently announced its intent to evaluate the potential environmental impacts of a proposal to authorize incidental takes of birds under the MBTA.… Continue Reading

How Will EPA’s New Definition of “Waters of the U.S.” Affect Oil & Gas Pipelines?

Posted in Administrative Rulemaking, Environmental, Federal/ State Legislation, Integrity Management, Policy
Amid considerable controversy, the U.S. EPA and Army Corps of Engineers (the agencies) issued a Final Rule on May 27, 2015, re-defining and expanding the definition of jurisdictional “waters of the U.S.” under the federal Clean Water Act. … Continue Reading

PHMSA Rail Transportation Rules Reflect Pressure to Act in the Face of Recent Oil Train Derailments

Posted in Administrative Rulemaking, Environmental, Incident Response, PHMSA
Under pressure from Congress, NTSB, and the public to take regulatory action in light of recent accidents involving oil trains, PHMSA finalized its regulations applicable to “High-Hazard Flammable Trains” in a Final Rule issued a mere nine months after it was proposed in an August 1, 2014 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.… Continue Reading