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Republicans unveil sweeping effort to expand pipeline, energy infrastructure – 7/27/2023

Republican leaders on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are unveiling a draft of legislation aimed at streamlining permitting for pipelines and other related energy projects.

The Pipeline Safety, Modernization, and Expansion Act of 2023 — authored by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and Energy Subcommittee Chairman Jeff Duncan, R-S.C. — focuses on four key pillars: expanding pipeline infrastructure, lowering prices, reducing emissions and strengthening pipeline safety.

Among its key provisions, the legislation would authorize the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to issue any federal permit required for the construction, modification, expansion, inspection, repair or maintenance of a pipeline. It would also enable individuals to request FERC make a final decision on a permit if the federal agency tasked with permitting a pipeline fails to complete a proceeding within one year.

It would also prohibit a state or local jurisdiction from banning transportation of an energy source like natural gas that are sold in interstate commerce using a pipeline regulated by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).

Also, under the bill, PHMSA would be required to factor in "safety and economic benefits within the United States" when conducting its cost-benefit analysis of proposed pipeline regulations.

In addition, the draft legislation includes a number of provisions aimed at shoring up pipeline safety. 

For example, it would require the PHMSA to conduct technical safety advisory meetings more regularly, up penalties for "damaging, destroying, or impairing the operation of" pipeline facilities, directs PHMSA to conduct a pilot program to test innovative pipeline safety technologies, and establishes a PHMSA information sharing system to "gather, evaluate, and quantify critical pipeline safety data and information to improve safety.

And the bill would further require PHMSA to finalize safety standards for carbon dioxide transportation pipeline facilities no later than one year from the date of enactment. It also clarifies the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to identify areas suitable for underground sequestration of carbon dioxide.

That provisions would address how carbon capture and storage and storage (CCS) technology is regulated. CCS is a nascent technology boosted by some environmentalists and which involves separating carbon emissions at fossil fuel-fired power plants and industrial factories before transporting that gas via pipeline into a deep underground cavern where it is stored forever. 

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