On the eve of sending this issue to press, a new bill aimed at modernizing the approval process for cross-border oil and natural gas pipelines in the United States started to make its way through committee hearings. The Energy and Power Subcommittee on Oct. 29 began reviewing the North American Energy Infrastructure Act (H.R. 3301), a bipartisan piece of legislation authored by U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas).
The bill aims to create a more modern, efficient and transparent cross-border approval process for oil and natural gas pipelines, as well as electric transmission lines that traverse the national borders of the United States. This is a not-so-subtle effort to prevent the insane delays that the Keystone XL pipeline has endured since 2008. On Sept. 19, the Energy and Commerce Committee marked the five-year anniversary of the initial filing of the Keystone XL pipeline application with a hearing called “Keystone’s Red Tape Anniversary: Five Years of Bureaucratic Delay and Economic Benefits Denied.”
As North America’s energy product continues to thrive, with the Canadian oil sands and the shale boom, demand is increasing to build the infrastructure to harness and deliver these supplies. However, there are obstacles to building these facilities, as U.S. regulatory policies have failed to keep pace with the country’s energy growth, according to an Energy and Commerce Committee statement. The North American Energy Infrastructure Act would bring certainty to the current cross-border approval process, which was created by multiple executive orders rather than as a unified strategy. This legislation would still require compliance with all environmental and safety laws.
“New technologies and American innovation are unlocking vast amounts of previously untapped domestic energy resources, meaning greater access to affordable and reliable energy for all Americans,” said subcommittee chairman Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.). “This energy boom is having a dramatic economic impact, creating thousands of new jobs and paving a path toward a brighter energy and fiscal future.”
Whitfield added that energy supply alone is not sufficient to achieve North American energy security.
“We must also have in place the energy infrastructure necessary to deliver affordable and reliable energy across our northern and southern borders,” he said.
Citing the need to reduce the years-long delays of new infrastructure projects, Upton said the bill would maximize the benefits generated from jobs and economic growth.
“Our energy policies should seek to safely and responsibly maximize our energy abundance and minimize pain to people’s pocketbooks when it comes to energy prices,” Upton said. “This bipartisan legislation is an important step forward as we work to develop the architecture of abundance to achieve North America’s energy future.”
Jim Burpee, president and CEO of the Canadian Electricity Association, explained the many benefits that could come from a consistent cross-border permitting processes.
“Modernizing the Presidential Permit process would therefore not only present benefits in terms of enabling [the Department of Energy] to better meet its own time commitments for reviewing an application, it would also offer the added benefit of aligning more closely with the recent establishment of fixed deadlines for completion of corresponding reviews by the [National Energy Board] in Canada,” Burpee said.
It’s clear that outdated policies need to be revamped. It would be a cruel trick indeed if this bill doesn’t meet approval of Congress.