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FERC issues guidelines to help pipelines cross historical, cultural areas

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on July 31 issued a set of guidelines to clarify how it expects natural gas pipeline companies to handle Native American sacred areas, old properties and other places of historical and cultural value on the routes of their projects.

In the document, "Guidelines for Reporting on Cultural Resources Investigations for Natural Gas Projects," the commission stressed that the information was only designed to provide guidance to pipeline companies and developers of other types of gas projects. It does not impose new legal obligations. Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act requires the commission to consider historical and cultural resources in its reviews of applications to build energy projects.

The guidelines cover such topics as communications with Native American tribes and state historical preservation offices, the use of horizontal directional drilling, and plans for unexpected finds of human remains and structures that may qualify as historical properties.

Joan Dreskin, Interstate Natural Gas Association of America's general counsel and vice president of regulatory affairs, said the cultural resources guidelines do not revise existing statutes and regulations but express the commission's preferences for identifying, communicating and dealing with these areas.

Energy Transfer Partners LP has drawn a lot of attention from federal and state regulators and from the public after its ongoing Rover Pipeline LLC construction project damaged a house with historical properties in Ohio, but the cultural resource guidelines are the culmination of a process that took many months. FERC released a draft version January 25. (FERC docket AD15-10)

"The publication of the guidelines is not directly related to the Rover incident," FERC spokeswoman Tamara Young-Allen said.