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FERC to prioritize pipe applications; Rover startup delayed after FERC denial

Pipeline applications to be among top priorities of reconstructed FERC

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has never had to operate without a quorum before this year, and the commission will likely remain shorthanded for months more before it regains the minimum number of commissioners to vote. The reconstituted commission will face a massive amount of business that has been accumulating during the downtime, and observers said the unprecedented rush will dictate the FERC agenda for months.

FERC staff began preparations even before the Trump administration named Neil Chatterjee, an energy adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Robert Powelson, president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and a member of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, as Republican nominees to the commission. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a mostly friendly hearing for the nominees May 25. LaFleur said she was excited to work with Chatterjee and Powelson once they are confirmed by the Senate.

The natural gas pipeline industry hoped decisions on new lines and expansions would be among the first orders of business for the new commission. "It is reasonable to anticipate that acting on pending applications for pipeline certificates will be a high priority," said Donald Santa Jr., president and CEO of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America. "Still, the new commissioners will need time to get up to speed on the details of the matters on which they will be expected to vote."

Startup for 1st phase of Rover Pipeline delayed after FERC denial

FERC staff denied Rover Pipeline LLC's request to resume drilling activities for its 3.25-Bcf/d natural gas pipeline project, and the company behind the project now expects a delay in its in-service date.

After FERC compliance monitors conducted field inspections, the commission's Office of Energy Projects determined that the sites were "currently stable, have appropriate erosion control measures installed and have drill entry and exit sites adequately set back from the associated waterbody." However, instead of permitting drilling, staff said Rover could remove the drill stem from the Middle Island Creek site and install a casing to prevent the hole from collapsing.

FERC staff said authorization to resume drilling activities would still depend on an independent third-party contractor's analysis of the Tuscarawas River drill site where a spill occurred, and staff recommended mitigation measures designed to prevent "the same level of impacts" found at other project drill sites.

With FERC quorum in sight, nominees assure senators of support for gas projects

Testifying at a confirmation hearing, a pair of FERC nominees stayed true to the commission's philosophy, telling senators that they support natural gas infrastructure as an important part of the U.S. energy market but they still listen to input from all parties.

Neil Chatterjee, energy adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on May 25 that he would bring the same "equitable, level-headed approach to the commission" that he brought to his work in the Senate. McConnell, whom Chatterjee called simply "the leader," introduced the nominee as someone capable of building bridges. McConnell said Chatterjee was known in his office as the "Boxer whisperer" after his success working with then Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

Fellow Republican nominee Robert Powelson, a Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission member and president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, said he was proud of the state commission's bipartisan culture and looked forward to the same at the federal commission.

Kinder Morgan project for Corpus Christi terminal shines in environmental review

FERC staff issued a positive environmental assessment of a proposed Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. compression project that would provide firm natural gas transportation service to Cheniere Energy Inc.'s Corpus Christi export facility in Texas.

The commission's Office of Energy Projects published the report May 26. The report determined that an order approving the project would not be a major federal action that would significantly harm the environment, as long as it came with certain mitigating measures. The report included 13 mitigation measures. Federal agencies working with the commission on reviewing the project will have until Aug. 24 to finish their work on the project review.

Sabal Trail pipeline poised for service as opponents resist

The WWALS Watershed Coalition asked FERC to deny any requests to place into service the large Southeast Market Pipelines natural gas infrastructure project, which includes Sabal Trail Transmission LLC's approximately 1.1 Bcf/d pipeline project, in a last-ditch effort to halt the project.

The request is unlikely to succeed because FERC approved both the project concept and construction stages along the way. The commission issued a certificate order for the Sabal Trail project and two sister projects Feb. 2, 2016, and construction on the Sabal Trail pipeline is now complete.

In a May 25 letter posted May 26, WWALS Watershed Coalition asked the commission to "stay, stop, or deny" all requests to place any part of the project's facilities into service and revoke the project's certificate order. The environmental group disputed the need for the pipeline project, its connection to LNG exports, its legal status and its environmental record.

FERC authorizes extension for NGPL project in Illinois

Natural Gas Pipeline Co. of America LLC will have a year to secure a certificate amendment to allow its 2012 "storage optimization" natural gas project to retain extra compressor capacity in Illinois.

The project originally involved new compression facilities in Iowa and Illinois and the abandonment of compressor station units in Clinton and Piatt counties in Illinois. However, after the 2016-2017 winter, NGPL decided that its system would benefit more by keeping the Clinton and Piatt compressor units and using them as a redundant supply of compression if mechanical issues occur with the stations' other infrastructure.