On August 3, 2017, the Senate confirmed both Neil Chatterjee (R) and Robert Powelson (R) as FERC Commissioners, returning FERC to a quorum after six months.  FERC has been unable to issue major decisions without a quorum, although staff work has continued to work on a variety of fronts, including issuing environmental reviews for various pipeline construction and other energy projects.  The Senate confirmations should be a relief for the energy industry, which has been subject to prolonged uncertainty as major project approvals have been at a standstill since February.

The quorum will be restored as soon as Chatterjee and Powelson are sworn in, which historically has taken from one to three weeks.  The confirmation of the nominations of Chatterjee, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Powelson, a Pennsylvania regulator, brings the Commission to 3 members of what is typically a 5 member Commission.  Trump previously announced nominations of Kevin McIntyre (R), an energy lawyer in private practice, and Richard Glick (D), a Senate aide, for the two remaining vacancies weeks ago, but only nominated them formally this week.  The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has scheduled a hearing on those nominations for September 7, 2017.

Continue Reading Senate Confirmations to Restore FERC Quorum; Committee to Review Permit Streamlining Bill

President Trump plans to nominate Kevin McIntyre to serve as chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).  McIntyre currently works in private practice in the energy regulatory sector and has for 30 years. With McIntyre’s nomination, there will be four commissioner candidates in various stages of the nomination and confirmation process.

Continue Reading Trump Selects Kevin McIntyre to Chair FERC

Oil and gas discoveries in various shale plays around the U.S. over the past decade have led to an increased rise in the number of transfers and acquisitions of pipeline assets, including pipelines serving processing plants, producers, storage facilities, and those associated with power plants and other industrial users.  Changes in global and domestic energy markets have continued that trend.  Prudent operators routinely request and review documentation as part of their due diligence in making acquisitions, but it is becoming increasingly important that certain records be located during due diligence or factored into the transaction if such records are lacking and must be recreated.  Decision makers involved in pipeline acquisitions should involve pipeline safety managers or counsel early on in the process to allow sufficient time to include pipeline safety records review as part of the transaction; to do otherwise can be a costly mistake that carries significant liability risk.

Continue Reading Due Diligence: Critical Component of Pipeline Acquisitions

A bill intended to streamline the siting of natural gas pipelines and increase transparency is advancing through the U.S. House.  As approved by voice vote, H.R. 2910 , would facilitate concurrent federal and state agency reviews to help streamline the siting review process under the Natural Gas Act (NGA) which is led by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).  This bill comes at a time when the permitting process for natural gas pipelines has become protracted, cumbersome, and subject to third party challenges and delays at the federal, state and local levels.

Continue Reading Legislation Advances to Streamline Natural Gas Permitting

President Trump announced that he will nominate Richard Glick to serve as a commissioner at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).  Glick currently serves as the General Counsel for the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and is a Democrat.  Glick also previously worked as a lobbyist in the energy industry.

Continue Reading FERC Still Lacks Quorum as Trump Announces Nomination of Glick

On December 19, 2016, PHMSA issued an interim final rule (IFR) to establish for the first time  minimum federal safety standards for underground natural gas storage facilities.  The rule was issued in response to the 2015 Aliso Canyon storage leak that lasted almost four months,  and a subsequent Congressional mandate to issue federal standards for underground storage.  Among other things, the IFR incorporated by reference (thereby making them mandatory) two American Petroleum Institute (API) Recommended Practices (RPs) regarding underground natural gas storage in salt caverns and reservoirs: (1) API RP 1170, “Design and Operation of Solution-mined Salt Caverns Used for Natural Gas Storage,” (July 2015); and (2) API RP 1171, “Functional Integrity of Natural Gas Storage in Depleted Hydrocarbon Reservoirs and Aquifer Reservoirs,” (Sept. 2015).  API finalized both of those RPs in response to the Aliso Canyon incident.

Continue Reading PHMSA to Reassess Underground Natural Gas Storage Rule

The Gas Pipeline Advisory Committee (GPAC) will meet [Notice of advisory committee meeting] in Washington, D.C. early next month to convene the second public meeting regarding PHMSA’s proposed gas rules, often referred to as the gas mega rule.  The meetings will be focused on key proposed revisions to 49 C.F.R. Part 192 natural gas rules, including expanded integrity assessment requirements, revised integrity assessment and repair criteria, records, material documentation, corrosion control, and the integrity verification process (IVP) for segments that are currently grandfathered under the rules.  The meetings are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, June 6-7, 2017, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Continue Reading Technical Advisory Committee Meeting Scheduled on Gas Mega Rule

In an effort to resolve the lack of a quorum at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), yesterday President Trump nominated Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson to fill Commissioner vacancies.  Mr. Chatterjee is the senior energy advisor to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and previously worked with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.  Mr. Powelson is a current member of the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission and president of National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.  If the nominees are confirmed, FERC will regain a quorum, which it has not had since early February.  Reports have also signaled that Trump is expected to nominate Kevin McIntyre, an energy lawyer in private practice, to serve as the Commission Chairman.

Continue Reading Trump Takes Steps to Move FERC Towards a Quorum

For the past three months, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or the Commission) has been without a quorum needed to make any decisions approving pipeline permits or rates.  FERC is designed to have 5 Commissioners, but it must have at least 3 to constitute a quorum and make decisions.  FERC Chairman Norman Bay resigned on February 3, 2017, leaving the Agency with only 2 Commissioners; less than a decision making quorum.  To make matters worse, Commissioner Colleen Honorable announced this week that she intends to resign in the coming months.

Continue Reading FERC Makes Waves, Even While Drifting

President Trump has issued 30 Executive Orders and 28 Executive Memoranda since taking office on January 20, 2017, despite his failure to pass any major laws.  That is more Executive Orders than any President has issued in the first 100 days since World War II.  Nearly one fourth of these executive actions have affected the pipeline industry, either directly or indirectly, as noted below:

Continue Reading The First 100 Days: Executive Directives Impacting the Oil & Gas Pipeline Industry