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EEIA urges EPA to issue new rules for pipelines

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World Pipelines,

At an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hearing in Salt Lake City, Utah, on 6 September to gather comments on proposed rules for pipeline permitting, EEIA’s President Toby Mack cited the critical need for regulatory consistency on the part of states when reviewing pipeline projects for compliance with federal water quality standards during construction.

According to EEIA, some states that want to block new pipelines have misapplied existing rules as a pretext to refuse construction permits. During testimony, Mack explained that “as a result of inconsistent interpretation of current regulations, some states’ administration of Clean Water Act section 401 permitting has created uncertainty in our companies’ ability to plan for the people and equipment needed to undertake construction projects requiring water quality certification. Rules have been misinterpreted to indefinitely delay or outright block permits for construction of vitally-needed infrastructure projects, or to deny certification on grounds having nothing to do with water quality.”

Mack emphasised that new natural gas pipelines are essential to the ongoing transition to clean, low-carbon and renewable electric generation both here and abroad. “It makes no sense to limit access to the very thing – natural gas – that has done so much to reduce our carbon emissions while lowering consumers’ and businesses’ energy costs. We applaud the Administration’s leadership in this area and look forward to a better regulatory process.”

Also testifying in support of the rule were executives from Utah-based EEIA members Wheeler Machinery Co. and Komatsu Equipment Company (KEC), which provide heavy equipment and services in the Western US. KEC President John Pfisterer advised EPA that “The proposed new rules will add consistency and predictability to the implementation of the certification process and will remove uncertainty in the timing of project construction,” adding that the rules will continue to maintain strong state oversight of important protections for water quality.

After EPA considers public input from the hearings, the rules are expected to be finalised and issued in early 2020.

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