The shale revolution and the newly realized abundance of domestic natural gas have created new opportunities for the United States and have prompted significant and rapid changes in our nation’s energy economy. The rapid growth in domestic natural gas supplies also has led to a significant change in the pipeline industry. While the U.S. enjoys a robust natural gas infrastructure, as seen above, this infrastructure was largely built to bring natural gas supplies – then primarily centered in the Gulf Coast region – to major markets in the Northeast, Midwest and along the West Coast. The new shale gas development has altered this model, driving the need to build new pipeline infrastructure to connect new supply to existing (and new) markets. A report by ICF International, sponsored by the INGAA Foundation, has estimated that the pipeline industry will need to invest about $8 billion each year through 2035 to keep pace with anticipated growth in both the supply and the demand for natural gas.
As we build this necessary energy infrastructure, we need to be mindful of the processes in place for pipeline approval, the lead times involved, and the potential for improving upon the existing framework. Currently, under the overall direction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the approval and permitting process for interstate natural gas pipelines is generally very good – particularly when compared with the permitting processes for other types of energy infrastructure. Even good systems can be improved upon, however, and this area is no exception. This Committee had a role in some important amendments to the Natural Gas Act in 2005 to add certainty and efficiency to the natural gas pipeline approval and permitting process. While the 2005 amendments empowered FERC to set deadlines for the various permits required to construct a pipeline, the amendments did not give FERC the authority to enforce such deadlines. H.R. 1900 would make an incremental, but substantive, improvement to the permitting process by giving FERC such authority. INGAA, therefore, supports this legislation.