Gas Industry Eyes Pipeline Regulation, Opposition

  • A pipeline right-of-way under construction in Fayette County, Pa. Photo: Reid R. Frazier

January 30, 2015

It’s simple economics—Pennsylvania has a large supply of gas, big cities like New York and Boston have the demand for it. A flurry of pipeline activity is currently underway to help supply meet demand. But building new pipelines is time-consuming and can be controversial, and industry insiders say regulations and local opposition could slow down their efforts.

John Kneiss, Director for Government Affairs and Policy at Stratas Advisors, spoke to an oil and gas conference in Pittsburgh this week about efforts to speed up pipeline approval. He says putting new pipe in the ground is key for keeping natural gas and other products flowing from Pennsylvania’s fracking boom. But getting permission to do this can take years and the industry says it wants to speed up the process.

He says a bill passed by the Republican controlled House of Representatives last week would speed up the process. 

“It takes time to (gain approval for new pipelines) and this legislation is geared to help speed that process up and ensure it’s not a never - ending process,” Kneiss says.

The bill would give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) a time limit on interstate pipeline permit applications. If the feds don’t rule on the permit after 12 months, the pipeline is automatically approved.

President Obama has said he would veto the bill, if it passes the Senate.

Kneiss says another hurdle for pipeline projects is the opposition of local groups.

“The NIMBY problem—not in my back yard—is a serious one,” he says. “We have to be able to move the product from where it comes up to a processing center, and ultimately, a distributor and a customer.”

Several pipeline projects in Pennsylvania and elsewhere have been met with local opposition over safety and environmental concerns.

The pipeline industry may also face more scrutiny from the federal government. On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board called for more inspections of pipelines to prevent accidents. And earlier this month, the Obama administration announced plans to curb methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, which could impact pipeline companies.