Thursday, October 3, 2013

Limitations upon FERC's authority are staggering!


This is part 1 of 3 parts dealing with pipeline jurisdiction. 
Federal or State? This article deals mainly with FERC jurisdiction.
Part 2 deals with the jurisdiction of the NYS Public Service Commission.
Suggest you read all three parts.
Limitations upon FERC's authority are staggering!

Q: From where does the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission derive its authority?
A: Congress, right?
Well, partly.

Couple of things have always puzzled me:
  1. How did the massive Bluestone and Laser NG Pipelines escape FERC oversight?
    They both cross state boundaries!

  2. How did most of the largest compressor station projects in NE PA--
    All SEEMINGLY part of a big, interstate, FERC-scoped NG transmission line
    (e.g., Williams Central Station, Lathrop Compressor, UGI Auburn, etc)
    escape FERC oversight?
What's up with the Federal Law? It seems very inconsistently applied.

I found the answer, and it's pretty shocking:
It is because the GAS INDUSTRY defines the demarcation between an
"interstate transmission line" (scoped by FERC) and a "gathering line system"
(not scoped by FERC), and their rules are "incorporated by reference" into the law.
PS: these rules are trade secrets and intellectual property
of the American Petroleum Institute, and generally
not easily browseable by the public.

See for yourself: 49 CFR § 192.8

Here is Carl Weimer, Executive Director, Pipeline Safety Trust
on the issue of secret laws written by industry which
are "incorporated by reference":

Which leads me to ask,
Who's in charge around here, anyway!?

I also discovered something else, which affects TAR SANDS pipelines,
like Keystone XL and Exxon-Mobil Pegasus (think: Mayflower spill),
and also the proposed Bluegrass (Natural Gas Liquids).
Most of these pipelines are not scoped by FERC.
The implications of this are truly frightening....

I tried to express this all in a "little bit wordy" infographic.
Please share:

The Federal Energy Regulatory Authority (FERC) has statutory authority to require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and to issue permits ONLY for Interstate Natural Gas pipelines which are not part of a "gathering line system" (according to a rule written by THE GAS INDUSTRY ITSELF!! -- API RP80). 

Hazardous liquids pipelines which cross an international boundary (like Keystone XL) are permitted by the U.S. State Department.  [NOTE: An earlier version of this blog stated this incorrectly in text and also a graphic.] 

's the bottom line:

#1: Most:
  • Natural gas compressor stations
  • Interstate crude oil pipelines (inc. dilbit and syncrude),  
  • NGL pipelines (like the proposed "Bluegrass"), 
  • and other refined products pipelines (e.g. jet fuel), 
have no federal permitting authority
and no federal environmental review.

#2: Much of the regulations for pipelines are written, not by Congress, but by the industry themselves, and are incorporated into the law by reference. These documents are trade secrets and not easily browsable by the public.

Have a nice day!

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