INGAA Comments on CEQ Draft Guidance on Improving the Process for Preparing Efficient and Timely Environmental Reviews under NEPA

Per the notice issued by the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) on December 7, 2011, and published in the December 13, 2011, Federal Register, the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA) comments on the Draft Guidance on Improving the Process for Preparing Efficient and Timely Environmental Reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The siting, construction, and operation of natural gas transmission pipelines require federal permits, grants of rights-of-way, and approvals from various agencies, including the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). These federal approvals require compliance with NEPA. INGAA members are committed to minimizing adverse impacts to the environment that may occur during development of this critical infrastructure and agree that the permitting for these projects should be completed in an environmentally responsible and timely manner while meeting the energy needs of the nation.

The involvement of different agencies in the NEPA process, and sometimes numerous offices within the same agency, however, can be challenging and frequently results in delay when those agencies do not act in concert. Specifically, INGAA asserts that the NEPA review process could be an obstacle to timely infrastructure development. INGAA argues that the draft guidance is a good opportunity for CEQ to help resolve common challenges faced by the pipeline industry with respect to timely completion of the NEPA process. To this aim, INGAA advocates that CEQ should clarify the roles of the lead agency and the role of coordinating and cooperating agencies to avoid duplicating agency efforts and to promote concurrent agency action. INGAA argues that CEQ should strongly encourage agencies to establish and abide by predictable timelines for conducting NEPA reviews. Further, CEQ should recognize that project proponents are in a position to provide critical information to agencies and other consulting parties. Accordingly, CEQ should encourage project proponents to act as facilitators in the NEPA process.