Following pressure from pipeline companies and landowner groups, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has modified an order that prevents energy companies from doing construction work for pipelines and natural gas export projects until objections have been resolved.
The original order last June aimed to ensure that landowners’ protests against energy projects were heard before construction work started. But environmental groups said the rule didn’t do enough to protect people living in the route of natural gas pipelines. Natural gas companies had also asked for clarity on the rule, noting that it did not include a timeline for when the commission would need to address all complaints (Energywire, June 10, 2020).
FERC issued a new order Tuesday asserting that a stay on construction will last for a maximum of 150 days from the commission’s initial approval. The rule won’t apply if no one disputes a project’s authorization, and it does not prevent companies from undertaking other activities that do not take place on private property.
But the order also imposes a new, automatic stay on construction for a 30-day period after the commission issues a certificate allowing projects to move forward. That aligns with the deadline for landowners or other groups to contest FERC’s decision through a rehearing request.
The order represents a “compromise” to ensure that developers can build energy infrastructure in a timely manner while protecting those affected by new pipeline projects, Democratic FERC Chair Richard Glick said. He and Commissioner Mark Christie (R) approved of the order, while Commissioner James Danly (R) dissented. Commissioners Allison Clements (D) and Neil Chatterjee (R) did not participate.