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US senator proposes bill to streamline approval of border-crossing pipelines

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US senator proposes bill to streamline approval of border-crossing pipelines

A Republican U.S. senator from North Dakota introduced legislation that would streamline the permitting process for oil and gas pipeline projects and electric transmission line projects by removing the U.S. Department of State from the federal review process and by placing deadlines on the process.

Introduced by Sen. John Hoeven, the North American Energy Infrastructure Act would scrap current requirements for a presidential permit from the State Department. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission would issue a "certificate of crossing" for oil and gas pipeline projects crossing U.S. international borders within 90 days of the end of the review under the National Environmental Policy Act unless the agency found the project not in the public interest of the U.S. The current deadline for border-crossing permits is 120 days. The U.S. Department of Energy would issue the certificate for electric transmission lines under the same deadline.

"Our nation needs robust investment in its infrastructure, especially if we are to accomplish the goal of making North America energy secure," Hoeven said in a June 14 press release. If enacted, the bill, S. 3065, "would promote regulatory certainty for the energy industry while also supporting the production of affordable energy and the creation of good jobs." Hoeven is on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

The State Department under the Obama administration held up TransCanada Corp.'s Keystone XL crude oil pipeline with the presidential permit process, and the energy industry has complained of other delays. The Trump administration issued the permit for Keystone XL.

The Association of Oil Pipe Lines said the bill would improve the permitting program for projects that are sometimes delayed for years. "Permanently reforming the cross-border permitting process will ensure future American workers benefit from good-paying pipeline infrastructure jobs and American consumers benefit from additional supplies of energy," President and CEO Andy Black said.

The legislation is similar to H.R. 2883, the Promoting Cross-Border Energy Infrastructure Act, proposed by Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla. The bill was passed on July 19, 2017, in a mostly party-line vote in the House of Representatives. Both bills would move border-crossing approvals from the State Department to FERC and the DOE and truncate the timeframe for a permit decision from 120 days to 90 days. H.R. 2883 is currently in the Senate's Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Since President Donald Trump began promoting efforts to funnel federal permitting activities primarily into FERC, other Republican lawmakers have introduced bills that would streamlinelstreamline parts of the approval process for energy infrastructure. Previous attempts to hasten the permitting process ultimately failed in Congress in spite of support. The original North American Energy Infrastructure Act, or H.R. 3301, was proposed by Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mi., in 2013 and passed the House of Representatives.