INGAA president sees White House infrastructure plan as starting point for addressing thorny pipeline review and permitting issues

The Interstate Natural Gas Association of America applauded the White House for developing principles intended to foster coordination, predictability and transparency in federal environmental review and permitting processes for infrastructure projects, including energy infrastructure, such as pipelines.

“Despite the clear need for new natural gas pipelines, the permitting process has become more protracted and challenging,” INGAA President and Chief Executive Officer Don Santa said. “Roadblocks and delays are becoming commonplace at federal and state permitting agencies. The permitting principles developed by the White House recognize many of the challenges with the permitting process and suggest reforms that could facilitate the more responsible and orderly development of infrastructure. We hope this is the first step toward more comprehensive permitting reform.”

Infrastructure is essential to our economy, serving as an indispensable link to bring abundant, affordable domestic energy supply to families, power plants, businesses and manufacturers. Unlike many other infrastructure projects, such as bridges and roads, pipelines are privately financed and do not require government funds. The pipeline industry is not looking for government money, but instead a more predictable permitting and environmental review process.

The White House plan identifies both federal and state processes that are delaying environmental review and permitting. For example, the White House recognizes the need for clarity in the role of state permitting authorities implementing the Clean Water Act Section 401 certification process.

“We respect the rights of states in protecting the resources within their borders and support the cooperative federalism of the Clean Water Act,” Santa said. “However, that concept requires participants to act within the scope of their authority. Actions that abuse this authority trample the rights of other states and disrupt interstate commerce. At the heart of cooperative federalism lies cooperation.” 

By clarifying the time frame, the White House principles bring predictability to this important part of the permitting process. Still, in implementing these principles and considering how best to balance federal and state authorities, it is incumbent on the administration and Congress to establish greater accountability in the Section 401 process.

“Taking these next steps is critical to reforming the Section 401 process and to achieving the goal of cooperative federalism more fully,” Santa said.

INGAA encourages Congress and the administration to take prompt action on these reforms.