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D.C. Circuit Raises the Stakes: NEPA Defect Sufficient to Halt Pipeline Operations

Posted in Environmental, Judicial/ Administrative Decisions, Natural Gas
Federal agencies that authorize or permit large infrastructure projects, like interstate natural gas pipelines, are often subject to the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, and environmental organizations frequently rely on NEPA to challenge a project. The D.C. Circuit recently struck down a decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to approve the construction and operation of three interstate natural gas pipelines because the Court found defects in FERC’s NEPA analysis. The court’s decision to vacate FERC’s authorization now threatens to shut down the pipelines, including the Sabal Trail pipeline currently supplying natural gas to newly constructed power plants in Florida.… Continue Reading

Insurance Mitigates Cyber-Related Risk

Posted in Environmental, Incident Response, Infrastructure Security, Natural Gas, Practice Pointers
In today’s interconnected society, cyber breaches are inevitable. As the saying goes, it is not a matter of if, but when, an organization will be breached. This is particularly true for businesses in the energy sector, which is one of the most frequently targeted industries for cyber attacks. From producers to pipelines and refineries, energy companies’ computer systems are increasingly at risk of becoming the target of a sophisticated and targeted cyberattack, making cyber risk mitigation paramount.… Continue Reading

Senate Confirms Susan Parker Bodine as New Head of EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance Office

Posted in Environmental
As reported in The Nickel Report, on Thursday, the Senate confirmed Susan Parker Bodine as the Assistant Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (“OECA”). OECA, the chief enforcement arm of EPA, coordinates the agency’s enforcement of numerous federal environmental laws within its authority. Click here to read the full… Continue Reading

Federal Judge Declines to Shut Down Dakota Access Pipeline While Corps Corrects Errors in Environmental Review

Posted in Environmental, Judicial/ Administrative Decisions
Once large infrastructure projects, such as oil and natural gas pipelines, receive federal government approval, they are often the target of legal challenges from opposition groups. Opponents repeatedly argue that the environmental review, pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), was insufficient. If a court finds deficiencies in the government’s NEPA analysis, can a court halt construction or cease operations even after years of project design, permit approvals at all levels of government, and tens of millions of dollars in investment? This question was at the heart of the ongoing litigation involving the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), and, on October 11, Judge James Boasberg determined “no,” the court would not shut down the pipeline. This case is important precedent for projects being challenged under NEPA. … Continue Reading

FERC: Water Quality Certification Waiver Period for Pipeline Projects Begins Upon Receipt of a Written Request for Certification

Posted in Environmental, Judicial/ Administrative Decisions, Natural Gas
On September 15, 2017, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or the Commission) issued an order in which it concluded that delays by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC or the Department) in processing Millennium Pipeline Company’s application for Clean Water Act (CWA) water quality certification constituted a waiver of the certification requirement. … Continue Reading

Second Circuit Upholds State Veto of Constitution Pipeline Project Via Denial of Water Quality Certification

Posted in Environmental, Judicial/ Administrative Decisions, Natural Gas
As previously reported on PipelineLaw, the ongoing controversy over an April 2016 decision by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC or the Department) to deny a Clean Water Act (CWA) water quality certification to Constitution Pipeline Company (Constitution or the Company) for its interstate natural gas pipeline project in Pennsylvania and New York highlights tensions between federal and state oversight of such projects.… Continue Reading

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