This post is the second part of our 3 part pipeline series. Learn more by reading:
PIPELINE SERIES PART I- Ideas for a New Federal-State Partnership Process for Siting & Approving Interstate Pipelines with Intrastate Benefits
PIPELINE SERIES PART III – The Benefits of a Collaborative Approach
Before any new review processes are established, all parties must work to fill gaps in existing facility siting processes. States that currently have no established process for the siting review and approval of intrastate transmission pipeline projects, like Pennsylvania, must establish them. Without clearly defined state authority over siting issues, it would be nearly impossible to develop a more efficient review framework.
Secondly, there must be a reframing of how we define interstate and intrastate pipeline projects. Since FERC has already acknowledged the local impacts of interstate projects, it must find a better way to address local opposition and challenges. To do this, it could consider borrowing concepts from the process used for the siting and development of interstate electric transmission lines. The national electric grid is connected through a series of intrastate lines each approved and sited at the local level. While the electric transmission line siting process puts the authority entirely with the states, FERC might benefit from giving some level of authority to the states in the development of transmission pipelines.
A new review paradigm might be called the “Federal-State Partnership Process.” In this process, the intrastate “legs” of an interstate transmission pipeline project would be concurrently reviewed by each state authority for purposes of line siting issues and state and local permit approvals. Meanwhile, FERC could simultaneously address federal environmental standards and the interstate need for the transmission pipeline. To be eligible for this review process, states would be required to demonstrate they have an adequate review process and must adhere to a timeline for review that lines up with the FERC process. States should also not be able to condition their approvals with requirements that conflict with FERC.
Dividing responsibility clearly between FERC and state authorities in this manner would hit the sweet spot of each jurisdiction doing what it does best. It would also provide certainty in timing so that when a FERC approval is received, project developers can move quickly to obtain construction permits and move the transmission pipeline project forward. This approach would not be a circumvention or substitution of FERC policies, but rather an efficient process designed to address FERC’s and the public’s increasing demand for local oversight of transmission pipeline projects.