Make the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Accountable to Americans
Opinion

It’s Not Over Until FERC Is Fixed

By Katharine Gregg of Mason, NH
April 30, 2016

Now that the glow of Kinder Morgan’s suspension of the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline has begun to fade we need to look at some cold, hard facts. The first fact is that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission didn’t deny Kinder Morgan’s filing for a certificate of convenience to take our property by eminent domain to build the project. Kinder Morgan suspended its application.

That is a significant difference. When Kinder Morgan’s finances improve or the climate seems more propitious, what is to stop them from returning? Or someone else? The immediate danger is gone, but the issue of natural gas, its need, its cost to residents versus its profits for big corporations remains. We could see another NED in a twinkling of an eye unless we can ensure that FERC denies it and all others of similar kind to come.

The second fact is that the U.S. Senate and House have passed bills that, while strengthening certain conservation measures and improving the electricity grid in order to accommodate more renewable energy sources, also allow for streamlining regulations for the energy industry. “Greasing the skid,” as Richard Husband of N.H. Pipeline Awareness Network has expressed it.

Senate Bill 2012 (the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016) would streamline the permitting process at FERC by limiting state authority and decision-making in the process. Although states could still deny permitting, these denials would apparently be harder to make and harder to make stick. The bill also calls for expediting the approval of gas infrastructure, making it more difficult for states and stakeholders to respond within the allowed window of time. Authorization, the bill mandates, should be issued not later than 90 days after an application has been completed. More greasing the skids.

The House passed an energy bill in December, and the two bills now have to be reconciled in a conference bill. But there is still time and need for us to act. NED may have receded for the moment, but other, possibly worse, gas transport options could loom in our future.

We in New Hampshire hold our state’s rights dear. We don’t look kindly on the federal government’s unfair treatment of tax-paying citizens in favor of corporations, and we understand the rules of the game as they are stacked against us: dirty (fracked) gas we don’t need, transported through our state for sale elsewhere; our assets and way of life compromised for giant corporations’ profits and for their stockholders’. And biggest of all: our state lawmakers, laws and regulatory agencies summarily passed over by FERC, already funded in part by the fees of the very corporations whose permit applications it approves and soon to be facilitated even further by this federal legislation.

There’s still time to influence the reconciliation of the Senate and House bills in Washington. Write to your senators and representatives and tell them to stand up for state’s rights to protect states’ citizens.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte: ayotte.senate.gov, (202) 224-3324
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen: shaheen.senate.gov, (202) 224-2841
Rep. Ann Kuster: kuster.house.gov
Rep. Frank Guinta: guinta.house.gov

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