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Groups again call on Congress to investigate FERC approval of pipelines

Environmental groups pressed the U.S. Congress to reform the Natural Gas Act and to investigate the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's process for permitting natural gas pipeline projects.

A large coalition of conservation and citizen groups wrote a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J., that criticized Congress for its refusal to meet earlier requests to hold hearings on FERC's "abuse of power," according to a press release. The groups said FERC has allowed gas infrastructure projects to move forward that have advanced climate change, failed to meet requirements of the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, contributed to explosions and leaks, and stripped people of their property rights.

Congressional "rhetoric and campaign slogans of interest, care or concern for the devastating impacts of pipelines and climate change are of no value if they are not backed by action," members of the VOICES coalition wrote in the Oct. 22 letter. "For years we have been asking for congressional hearings and for years we have been told that you, the chairs of key committees, did not have the power to implement our request. Well, now you have had that power for nearly a year and still all we hear is rhetoric."

FERC declined to comment on the coalition's request. The Energy and Commerce Committee was not able to respond by press time.

"The abuses inflicted by FERC on people's rights, states' rights, our environment and future generations is obscene," Maya van Rossum, leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and one of the leaders of the coalition, said in the statement. "Equally as obscene is Congress' refusal to do anything about it."

For years, many of the environmental groups have fought for congressional attention to the commission's approval of pipeline reviews. The letter marked the second time this year that the groups have pushed for congressional hearings, following a Jan. 29 request to Pallone and other leaders in Congress to hold hearings on FERC.

In May, Delaware Riverkeeper and DC Action Lab built a pipeline display on the National Mall, across from the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., to protest FERC's approval of pipelines.