FERC to Update Pipeline Authorization Procedures, But When? Comments Now Due!

by Duane Nichols on July 19, 2018

Leach Xpress pipeline explosion in Marshall County on June 7, 2018

LaFleur: FERC unlikely to act on pipeline review before Powelson exit

From an Update by Iulia Gheorghiu, UtilityDive.com, July 18, 2018

Utility Dive Briefs:

>>> The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will not take any surprise action on its pipeline policy review at its Thursday open meeting, as comments are still coming in until July 26, Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur said Tuesday. FERC will instead focus on a slate of individual orders before her colleague Commissioner Robert Powelson steps down next month.

>>> With Powelson resigning from FERC in mid-August, the energy regulator will be down to four members, potentially deadlocking the commission on controversial votes. However, making an official decision on the pipeline policy review before Powelson leaves would be a “tall order,” LaFleur told reporters.

>>> FERC Chair Kevin McIntyre addressed the recent increase in the number of natural gas project applications on the commission’s podcast on Thursday, highlighting new hiring initiatives that would enable staff to keep up with the growing workload.

Utility Dive Insights:

FERC is facing many orders on natural gas pipelines, some of which have split the commission’s voting. In spite of this, LaFleur believes the commission is focused on “what they’re gonna get done while there’s still five” members, instead of strategizing for potential 2-on-2 votes when Powelson leaves.

“I don’t think people are thinking right now of what they’re gonna do when there’s four [commissioners],” LaFleur said.

This Thursday, FERC will rule on seven orders regarding pipeline certifications, from rehearing requests to firm service expansions for existing systems. The open meeting is set to be Powelson’s last one, after which applications regarding pipeline approvals and climate policy could face a deadlocked commission, empowering the two Democrats who are now in the minority.

LaFleur declined to indicate how she would be voting on the projects this week, although she and fellow Democrat Commissioner Richard Glick have previously diverged from the Republican majority on pipeline applications — most recently last month, in denying a rehearing request for the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

“In my case, many of the pipelines I’ve written separately on I felt were ultimately in the public interest, I just took sharp issue with the way the Commission did its review,” she said.

LaFleur also noted the number natural gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG) applications that the commission has received, saying that McIntyre has focused on bringing “more resources to bear on the applications we do have.”

On the recent Open Access podcast, McIntyre specifically mentioned hiring more LNG engineering staff to assist FERC’s Office of Energy Projects and using more independent contractors, as well as working with other federal agencies or national labs and reviewing FERC processes for possible efficiencies.

FERC has 15 pending LNG applications, of which a majority are LNG export projects, McIntyre said. FERC staff are currently performing construction inspections for six authorized projects.

McIntyre refused to give any timeline indications on larger FERC decisions, however, saying only that he and other commissioners will “closely review the information” submitted on the pending dockets for resilience, natural gas pipeline review and Public Utility Regulatory Practices Act review.


See Also: FERC, called a ‘rubber stamp’ by critics, begins policy review for approval of natural gas pipelines, Tom Johnson (NJ Spotlight), StateImpact PA, April 23, 2018


FERC Extends Comment Period on Review of Policy for Pipeline Approvals

From the Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance, May 25, 2018

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has extended the comment period for receiving input from the public on the agency’s review of its policy on certifying natural gas pipelines and related facilities. The parameters of the FERC review and the original comment deadline of June 25 was set forth in an April 25 Federal Register Notice. The new deadline for comments to be filed is July 25.

Further details here.

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Duane Nichols January 4, 2019 at 12:37 pm

FERC commissioner Kevin McIntyre dies of brain cancer


Kevin McIntyre, who served the briefest tenure ever as the nation’s top energy regulator at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, died yesterday.

McIntyre had been diagnosed with brain cancer in 2017 and previously had surgery to remove the tumor.

A setback in his condition led him to step away from the chairman’s role on Oct. 24. He remained on the commission and was succeeded as chairman by Commissioner Neil Chatterjee.

President Trump nominated McIntyre, 58, to serve at FERC as chairman in August 2017. It is unclear whether the administration knew at the time that he had cancer.

A Republican, he was confirmed by the Senate in November and was sworn in Dec. 7 of 2017 as chairman. The several months of delay were attributed to his medical treatment, according to several sources.

In March, as news of his ailment was made public, McIntyre issued a statement acknowledging “a health issue that arose unexpectedly last summer” and the subsequent brain surgery.

The prognosis was good, he said, given his “excellent health” and post-operative treatment. “For reasons of personal and family privacy, I do not intend to provide further details or updates on this subject,” he said at the time.

Within days of taking the reins at FERC, McIntyre had to lead the agency’s response to a request by Energy Secretary Rick Perry that the agency consider changing electricity market rules to enable financial subsidies for nuclear and coal power plants unable to compete in the market.

He led a 5-0 rejection by the commission of Perry’s proposal.

He chaired just eight of FERC’s monthly meetings, missing the September and October sessions for health reasons.

McIntyre led a number of important initiatives such as launching a resilience proceeding in response to Perry’s request as well as a review of FERC’s 1999 policy statement on certification of natural gas pipelines.

In April, he committed FERC to an interagency administration process that aims to cut the environmental permitting time for big infrastructure projects to two years.

As chairman, he also presided over a raft of 3-2 decisions in favor of natural gas pipelines that featured a party-line split among the commissioners.

Leading the commission, he was known for his deliberate approach to issues and his dry sense of humor.

Prior to his nomination to FERC, McIntyre was the co-leader of the global energy practice at the law firm Jones Day, where he practiced law for most of his nearly 30-year legal career.

At Jones Day, he led an expansive FERC practice, counseling and representing clients in nearly all industry sectors, including natural gas, electricity, oil, hydropower, wind power and other renewable resources, and energy marketing and trading. His work for energy clients spanned administrative and appellate litigation, compliance and enforcement matters, and corporate transactions.

McIntyre graduated from San Diego State University and Georgetown University Law School.

His wife, Jennifer, and three children survive him.


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