The Senate Energy Committee has moved legislation sponsored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, that will speed the full functioning of the Office of Pipeline Coordinator. The senator’s office said the legislation facilitates the hiring of personnel in the pipeline office, allows the coordinator to establish reasonable filing and service fees, and clarifies the intent of the Natural Gas Pipeline Act regarding litigation.
“This legislation accelerates the process of building an Alaskan gas pipeline,” said Sen. Murkowski in a July 25 statement. “A gas pipeline is essential for Alaska’s future. We want to make sure that the pipeline coordinator has the tools necessary to successfully manage this project and quickly get Alaska’s gas to market.”
The legislation passed by the committee July 25 includes the following provisions:
• A provision waives the pipeline coordinator from having to follow the time-consuming process of following executive branch hiring procedures for employees in the federal coordinator’s office, which should allow the office to be better staffed in six to nine months less than would be required under Title 5.
• A provision allows the federal coordinator to establish reasonable filing and service fees, charges and commissions for review of pipeline plans submitted by the entity that wins the right to build the line. The senator’s office said the fee structure is identical to what the Federal Land Policy and Management Act allows the Bureau of Land Management to charge for similar reviews of permits and plans under oil and gas leases. The amendment allows the revenues to go to the Office of Federal Coordinator to pay for personnel needed to permit and oversee construction of a gas pipeline.
• The bill clarifies the intent of the 2004 act that all suits related to the permitting or construction of a pipeline project must be filed in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The original law required such filing for challenges related to the pipeline act. In order to remain consistent, this amendment requires that any challenges to the pipeline relating to the Administrative Procedures Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act also be filed in the same circuit.