The Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA) submits the following comments on the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of the Interior Draft Report to Congress required by section 1813 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. INGAA is a national, non-profit trade association that represents the interstate natural gas pipeline industry and whose members account for virtually all of the natural gas transported and sold in the United States.
INGAA commends the agencies for their diligent work to comply with the mandates of section 1813 and appreciates the difficulties posed by the tasks Congress asked of it, especially within the tight timeframes set by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. INGAA is especially pleased that the agencies identified options for companies, tribes, and Congress to consider with respect to standards and procedures for determining fair and appropriate compensation for grants, expansions, and renewals of energy rights-of-way on tribal land.
However, INGAA believes the agencies did not appreciate the need to balance tribal sovereignty, which is not absolute, with the need for economic certainty in the energy transportation industry and that this failure detrimentally impacted the Draft Report’s discussion of national energy transportation policies and options. INGAA also is disappointed that the agencies applied inconsistent standards with respect to data supplied by the tribes and data supplied by the energy industry. The agencies failed to use relevant INGAA data and did not appreciate the reasons why many of INGAA’s member companies were unable to share information regarding tribal land settlements due to preexisting confidentiality agreements. The agencies also heard from INGAA that a number of its companies would not participate in the study because of concerns that their participation could negatively impact their current and future business relationships with their tribes. The agencies failed to recognize that the companies’ reluctance to participate in the study is evidence, in and of itself, of the unlevel playing field between the tribes and the utility companies. As detailed below, INGAA urges the agencies to correct these deficiencies in the Final Report so that Congress has a complete picture of the current situation regarding grants, expansions and renewals of rights-of-way on tribal land.
INGAA believes Congress needs to establish an objective, consistent, transparent, and uniform standard for valuing rights-of-way across tribal lands that is sufficient to ensure the construction, and continued operation of necessary natural gas transportation infrastructure, fair and reasonable natural gas transportation costs, and the payment to tribes of reasonable compensation. While a negotiated agreement for rights-of-way, whether new or existing, is the preferable outcome in all situations, INGAA believes that the study should encourage Congress to authorize a backstop mechanism, when negotiations come to an impasse, that provides the tribes with a fair and just return while providing the interstate natural gas pipeline industry with the ability to deliver needed natural gas to consumers at reasonable costs.