New Executive Order Could Help Streamline Pipeline Approval Process

Reuters, April 4, 2019

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow on Wednesday said the Trump administration would soon issue an executive order that would open the door for more natural gas pipelines and exports of liquefied natural gas, or LNG.  The administration, which is pushing a policy it calls energy dominance, has been considering an order that would push back against states, including New York, that have blocked interstate natural gas pipelines. Kudlow said the executive order would open the way for pipelines and LNG at an event hosted by the Christian Science Monitor news outlet.

New York has blocked pipelines that would take natural gas from Pennsylvania to New England, which means the region sometimes needs imports of LNG. Early last year, a tanker carrying LNG from a project in Russia’s Arctic arrived in Boston Harbor to satisfy demand during a cold snap. It was unclear how the order would overrule the authority of states to rule on pipelines.

Several politicians in New York, including Governor Andrew Cuomo, have said they want energy companies to focus more on renewable power sources and energy efficiency, instead of building more gas and other fossil fuel-fired power plants and infrastructure. New York State in recent years blocked the construction of several pipelines that would transport fracked natural gas from the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania to New England, including Williams Cos Inc’s Constitution and Northeast Supply Enhancement and National Fuel Gas Co’s (NFG) Northern Access.

In those cases, New York regulators denied the pipelines on environmental grounds. Trump has attempted to use an executive order to jumpstart TransCanada Inc’s long-delayed Keystone XL crude oil pipeline, signing an order just two days after assuming office in 2017. But that did not save the pipeline from getting bogged down in the courts and last week he issued another order seeking to breathe life into the project.

Meanwhile an independent federal agency has taken some steps that could help gas pipelines in New York. The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) determined last year that New York regulators waived their right to decide on a water quality certification for NFG’s Northern Access project because the state waited too long. FERC this week denied New York’s request to rehear that decision. Williams has made a similar argument about the Constitution pipeline.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Timothy Gardner; Additional reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Franklin Paul, Jonathan Oatis and Susan Thomas)

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