Dear Ms. Coulombe,
The Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (“INGAA”) respectfully submits these comments in response to the United States Army Corps of Engineers’ (the “Corps’”) request for input on existing regulations that should be repealed, replaced or modified. 82 Fed. Reg. 33,470 (July 20, 2017). Specifically, the Corps seeks public assistance in identifying existing policies and regulations that eliminate jobs or inhibit job creation; are outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective; impose costs that exceed benefits; and create a serious inconsistency or otherwise interfere with regulatory reform initiatives and policies. 82 Fed. Reg. at 33,470-71.
INGAA is a non-profit trade association whose member companies transport over 95% of the nation’s natural gas through a network of 200,000 miles of pipelines. Ensuring the safety, security, and reliability of this natural gas pipeline network is crucial to meeting the energy needs of the United States and contributes directly to the U.S. economy by powering domestic industry and providing jobs.
The siting, construction, and operation of interstate natural gas pipelines is governed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) under the Natural Gas Act (“NGA”), 15 U.S.C. §§ 717, et seq. Where new pipelines and maintenance activities will affect waters of the United States, the Corps administers permit programs under section 404 of the Clean Water Act (“CWA”) and/or section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act.
INGAA believes that the Corps’ regulatory reform initiative, and the adoption of the recommendations included herein, is critical to achieving the Trump Administration’s goals of expediting environmental reviews and approvals for infrastructure projects.1 Our members have gained substantial experience with these programs, and they appreciate the Corps’ renewed effort to improve the programs’ effectiveness and efficiency so that pipeline infrastructure is not needlessly delayed or restricted while protecting the nation’s waters. To that end, INGAA provides the following comments and recommends that the Corps should:
- Increase collaboration with FERC and defer to FERC’s review process to the maximum extent allowed by law.
- Clarify that the CWA section 401 review process starts upon the state’s receipt of the original written request for a CWA section 401 water quality certification.
- Enforce current regulations stating a waiver of CWA section 401 water quality certification will occur if the certifying agency fails to act on a request for certification within 60 days.
- Clarify that applicants need to provide reasonably reliable and accurate information about the resources along the right-of-way, but 100% ground surveys do not need to be conducted before an application can be processed.
- Simplify the nationwide permit (“NWP”) review process to ensure the efficient authorization of activities that have minimal impacts to waters of the United States by providing greater uniformity in regional conditions and consistent availability of NWPs across all districts.
- Create a permitting process or implement a new policy that expedites review and approval of both time-sensitive maintenance and inspection activities and emergency work.
- Amend the mitigation rule or issue guidance clarifying that permittee-responsible mitigation is not the only option for linear projects when impacts extend beyond the service area of a mitigation bank.
- Issue CWA section 404 permits contingent upon FERC’s successful compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act (“NHPA”) when FERC is the lead agency.
- Continue efforts to repeal the 2015 waters of the United States rule and promulgate a new rule to resolve inconsistencies and confusion surrounding CWA jurisdiction.
- Establish standard operating procedures and incorporate CWA section 408 personnel earlier in the permit review process to streamline section 408 approvals.
- Train Corps staff to ensure consistency between Corps district offices.