The Natural Gas Act, which has not been amended in decades, was the subject of a broad hearing on February 5 by the Energy Subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce. In opening remarks, Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ, Chairman of the full committee, said that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) “must take a more holistic view of the pipeline infrastructure already serving particular regions in order to determine whether new infrastructure is truly needed.” Continuing, he said:
“I am concerned FERC is simply approving duplicative pipelines, with 60-year lifespans, under the guise of “market need” even when those pipelines are not really necessary.
“The Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipeline projects clearly illustrate the need for regional review. Both pipelines cross roughly the same areas in the mid-Atlantic region and, in some instances, impact the same communities and landowners. Why do we need that duplication? And while work on both pipes has been halted, much of the land damage has already been done because FERC allowed these duplicative projects to begin construction.”
Among the witnesses testifying at the hearing were former FERC Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur and representatives of the Environmental Defense Fund, Delaware Waterkeepers and the Niskanen Center, all of whom raised many of the concerns ABRA has voiced over the years about the shortcomings of the FERC process. A letter to the subcommittee, to become part of the hearing record, was submitted by Richard Averitt IV, a Nelson County, VA landowner and 17 fellow landowners in the county whose properties would be impacted by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Their submission said:
“We are outraged citizens who have spent nearly six years fighting for our most basic and fundamental rights to due process and property in a country founded on these sacrosanct principles. Moreover, while our specific experience relates to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), our grievances are representative of injustices perpetrated against thousands of families across the country at this very moment along dozens of new pipelines routes. We are the victims of a broken system, a truly feckless FERC, an energy economy that is wildly incentivized to build infrastructure at any cost, and the outrageous lie that the public need for gas is driven by domestic demand while our nation races to be the largest global exporter.
“The Natural Gas Act is the framework for these abuses and it has not been updated to reflect the massive changes in the energy economy or the new realities of a diverse energy market since 1962. As a result, the language of the Natural Gas Act (NGA) is being misused by FERC to deny people their legal and constitutional rights, to strip and undermine the legal authority of states, to undermine the authority of other federal agencies, to ignore the mandates of the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, to trample private property rights, to take from communities the protection of public parks, forests and conserved lands that they have invested heavily in protecting, to take jobs and destroy small businesses, to harm our communities’ health, diminish our safety and damage our local environments, all for the benefit of a single industry seeking to advance its own corporate profits and business edge over its competitors.”
For a list of witnesses at the hearing, links to their testimony and an audio recording of the proceedings, click here.