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Trump order eases climate pressure on FERC; Mountain Valley review rescheduled

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Trump order eases climate pressure on FERC; Mountain Valley review rescheduled

Trump order disconnects drive for stronger climate analysis at FERC

President Donald Trump's decision to rescind the Obama administration's White House guidance on climate change will likely have little effect on FERC reviews of natural gas pipelines and export terminals, but it did eliminate pressure on the commission to strengthen them.

Gas industry groups and environmental groups had different reactions to the news, but they agreed that FERC would still have to comply with existing requirements in the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, which ask federal agencies to consider the climate ramifications of their decisions. The White House under former President Barack Obama had issued final guidance in August 2016 that asked agencies to do more on climate analysis, but Trump officially put an end to that March 28 when he issued an executive order that began the process of pulling down Obama's environmental regulations, the largest of which is the U.S. EPA's Clean Power Plan.

At least until Trump's election in November 2016, the U.S. EPA and environmental groups had used the guidance to push FERC to expand its climate change analysis in its reviews of applications to build the gas projects.

FERC sets new date for environmental report on Mountain Valley project

For a second time, FERC pushed back the environmental review of the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC natural gas transportation project and a related Equitrans LP expansion project that would allow East Coast customers to tap Appalachian Basin gas supplies.

In a March 31 notice, the commission released its staff's planned schedule for a final environmental impact statement for the projects. The review, previously scheduled for a March 10 release, will now be published June 23. FERC delayed the environmental review in order to collect and study route modifications and more information provided by Mountain Valley and Equitrans in January and March. Cooperating federal agencies will have until Sept. 21 to complete their work on the project review.

FERC gives itself more time to look at Northern Access 2016 rehearing

FERC staff extended the time the commission has to consider a rehearing request filed by National Fuel Gas Co. subsidiaries to fix problems they had with the approval of their Northern Access 2016 project.

With FERC lacking a quorum and unable to take timely action on requests for a rehearing of the project, staff granted a rehearing for the limited purposes of further consideration, which prevents time from running out on the request 30 days after it was made. In a March 3 request for rehearing, project sponsors National Fuel Gas Supply Corp. and Empire Pipeline Inc. asked FERC to reconsider language in the approval order that they believed made the project too dependent on state permits and failed to give them a predetermination of rolled-in rate treatment.

National Fuel to take Pa. compressor out of service given falling production

FERC allowed National Fuel Gas Supply Corp. to abandon a compressor station and switch a natural gas line from a transmission function to a gathering function because of a decline in gas production in Pennsylvania.

FERC agreed with National Fuel that the Heath compressor station is no longer needed for the pipeline system due to declining production volumes through natural depletion in the area of Jefferson County, Pa., which is outside the core zones of Pennsylvania's portions of the Marcellus Shale. The commission observed that the abandonment would help National Fuel streamline operations "by eliminating certain operating costs associated with maintaining facilities that do not provide sufficient revenue to support such costs and that are no longer necessary for operating National Fuel's system."

Midla can start Natchez pipeline, keeping commitment to customers

Writing the epilogue to a contentious battle between a natural gas company and its customers over what to do with a worn-out pipeline system based in Louisiana, FERC told American Midstream (Midla) LLC that it could start the new 48,300-Dth/d Natchez pipeline to continue service to shippers.

The pipeline project sprung from a commitment Midla made in an April 2015 settlement with customers. The settlement ended a conflict over the company's proposal to abandon a large part of its system, acquired from another company, because it was leaking and expensive to maintain.

Millennium Pipeline's proposed upgrade passes environmental review

FERC staff determined that Millennium Pipeline Co. LLC's upgrade of its natural gas system in New York would not create significant environmental issues while providing an additional 223,000 Dth/d of transportation capacity.

FERC Office of Energy Projects staff found in a March 31 environmental assessment that any commission approval of the Eastern System upgrade project would not be a major federal action harming the environment. FERC staff proposed 18 mitigation measures.

Plains' La. gas storage expansion gets 3 more years for construction

FERC gave Pine Prairie Energy Center LLC an extension to complete its natural gas storage expansion project after delays connected to an effort to comply with new Louisiana rules on underground salt caverns.

Richard Foley, branch chief of the FERC Division of Pipeline Certificates, told Pine Prairie it could have three more years, until May 2020, to complete construction of storage facilities and make them available for service. Foley granted the extension in a March 28 letter to Pine Prairie senior attorney Eileen Kisluk.