Interstate Natural Gas Pipeline Siting: FERC Policy and Issues for Congress




Interstate Natural Gas Pipeline Siting:
FERC Policy and Issues for Congress

Updated May 27, 2021
Congressional Research Service
https://crsreports.congress.gov
R45239




Interstate Natural Gas Pipeline Siting: FERC Policy and Issues for Congress

Summary
Growth in U.S. shale gas production has driven the development of natural gas pipelines from
producing regions to consuming markets, typically in different states. If long-term growth trends
in U.S. shale gas continue, the need for new pipelines could be substantial. One recent analysis by
the pipeline industry projected over 30 billion cubic feet per day of new pipeline capacity would
be needed through 2025. This new infrastructure could amount to several thousand miles of
additional interstate pipeline and on the order of $40 billion in capital investment.
Under the Natural Gas Act, companies seeking to build interstate natural gas pipelines must first
obtain certificates of public convenience and necessity from the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission (FERC). The commission’s regulatory process for certificate applications consists of
pre-filing, certificate application, application review (including environmental and other agency
review), authorization, and post-certificate proceedings. Several aspects of FERC’s review
practices are of interest to policymakers because they have been the subject of FERC dissent,
debate in Congress, or litigation. Key challenges to FERC certification involve environmental
impact assessment, evaluating project need, review timing, relations with other agencies, changes
in industry structure, export issues, environmental justice, and public participation in review.
The Bush, Obama, Trump, and Biden Administrations issued a series of executive orders intended
to change federal permitting of infrastructure, specifically including energy infrastructure.
Exactly how all of these orders have affected, or may affect, federal review of natural gas pipeline
siting is not clear. For example, in 2018, FERC signed a memorandum of understanding with
other federal agencies to meet the goals in President Trump’s E.O. 13807 “of reducing the time to
two years for each agency to complete all environmental reviews and authorization decisions for
major infrastructure projects.” However, President Biden revoked this executive order.
Pipeline expansion has prompted numerous congressional hearings and legislative proposals
regarding the federal role in pipeline siting. At least seven related bills have been introduced in
the 117th Congress, including the Promoting Interagency Coordination for Review of Natural Gas
Pipelines Act (H.R. 1616), the Safe and Accountable Federal Energy Review for Pipelines Act of
2021 (H.R. 2115), the CLEAN Future Act (H.R. 1512), the Environmental Justice Mapping and
Data Collection Act of 2021 (H.R. 516), the Ending Natural Gas Companies’ Seizure of Land for
Export Profits Act (S. 655), and the Landowner Fairness Act (S. 641), and H.R. 2889.
On February 18, 2021, FERC published a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) to reconsider its policies and
procedures for the certification of interstate natural gas pipelines. The 2021 NOI reopens a policy
inquiry originally initiated in 2018. The commission’s 2021 inquiry solicits additional
information and stakeholder perspectives about five aspects of certificate application review:
determination of project need, eminent domain and landowner interests, environmental impacts,
efficiency of the commission’s review process, and consideration of effects on environmental
justice communities. FERC’s inquiry was opened for public comments through May 26, 2021.
The commission has not stated any official timetable for completing this proceeding.
FERC’s NOI covers key congressional concerns as well as issues arising in certificate review
proceedings and litigation. Therefore, while FERC’s policy review does not guarantee any
changes to the gas pipeline certification status quo, it may provide valuable information and
context for congressional oversight. If Congress disagrees with FERC’s future policy choices
based on the findings of its NOI, those findings presumably would provide a basis and policy
context for subsequent legislative proposals. FERC’s policy options are limited to those aspects
of gas pipeline regulation which fall directly within the commission’s statutory authority under
the Natural Gas Act or within its discretion under other federal statutes.
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Contents
Introduction ..................................................................................................................................... 1
A Growing Gas Pipeline Network ................................................................................................... 2
FERC Pipeline Certification Process ............................................................................................... 4
Application Pre-Filing ............................................................................................................... 4
Certificate Application and FERC Review ............................................................................... 5
Environmental Review Under NEPA.................................................................................. 6
Certificate Authorities ............................................................................................................... 7
Post-Certificate Proceedings ..................................................................................................... 8
Gas Pipeline Siting Challenges ....................................................................................................... 8
Identifying Indirect Environmental Impacts ............................................................................. 9
Evaluating Project Need .......................................................................................................... 10
Timing and Relations with Other Agencies ............................................................................. 11
Changes in the Natural Gas Industry Structure ....................................................................... 14
Pipeline Infrastructure for Export ........................................................................................... 14
Environmental Justice ............................................................................................................. 15
Public Participation ................................................................................................................. 15

Recent Executive Orders ............................................................................................................... 16
Executive Order 13212 ........................................................................................................... 16
Executive Order 13604 ........................................................................................................... 17
Executive Order 13766 ........................................................................................................... 17
Executive Order 13777 ........................................................................................................... 18
Executive Order 13783 ........................................................................................................... 18
Executive Order 13807 ........................................................................................................... 19
Executive Order 13868 ........................................................................................................... 19
Executive Orders 13990, 13992, and 14008 ........................................................................... 20
Legislative Proposals ..................................................................................................................... 20
Proposals in Prior Congresses ................................................................................................. 21
Legislative Proposals in the 117th Congress ............................................................................ 21

FERC’s Policy Review .................................................................................................................. 22
Reopening the Policy Review ................................................................................................. 23
Policy Issues for Congress............................................................................................................. 24
Appendix: Past FERC Permit Legislative Proposals ..................................................................... 26

Figures
Figure 1. U.S. Interstate Natural Gas Pipeline System .................................................................... 3
Figure 2. U.S. Natural Gas Transmission Pipeline Mileage Additions ........................................... 4
Figure 3. Review Time for FERC Certificate, Pipelines over 20 Miles Long ............................... 13

Tables
Table 1. Current Legislative Proposals Involving FERC Certification of Pipelines ..................... 21
Table 2.Past Legislative Proposals to Change FERC Certification of Pipelines ........................... 26
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Contacts
Author Information ........................................................................................................................ 30


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Interstate Natural Gas Pipeline Siting: FERC Policy and Issues for Congress

Introduction
On February 18, 2021, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) published a Notice of
Inquiry (NOI) to reconsider its policies and procedures for the certification (permitting) of
interstate natural gas pipelines.1 The 2021 NOI solicits new information and additional
stakeholder perspectives regarding the commission’s review of its pipeline certification policies,
which was originally initiated in 2018.2 This policy review included a 2018 public comment
period, but the commission took no further action.3 The 2021 NOI effectively reopens the 2018
proceeding under a new FERC chairman and three (of five) new commissioners.
Expansion of the U.S. natural gas pipeline network has been an ongoing focus of Congress,
prompting numerous hearings and legislative proposals over the last decade regarding the federal
role in interstate natural gas pipeline siting. Several related bills have been introduced in the 117th
Congress through May 2021, including the Promoting Interagency Coordination for Review of
Natural Gas Pipelines Act (H.R. 1616), the Safe and Accountable Federal Energy Review for
Pipelines Act of 2021 (H.R. 2115), the CLEAN Future Act (H.R. 1512), the Environmental
Justice Mapping and Data Collection Act of 2021 (H.R. 516), the Ending Natural Gas
Companies’ Seizure of Land for Export Profits Act (S. 655), the Landowner Fairness Act (S.
641), and a bill to amend the Natural Gas Act with respect to actions for eminent domain by
holders of certificates of public convenience and necessity, and for other purposes (H.R. 2889).
FERC’s NOI is in the continuation a series of legislative proposals, executive orders, court
rulings, and commission orders which address the federal regulation of gas pipeline permitting.
FERC’s inquiry provides both advocates and opponents of gas pipeline development a new
opportunity to express their views about how the commission considers such projects. It may also
identify issues of focus for future congressional oversight and legislation. Given that the United
States is the world’s largest producer of natural gas,4 policy changes by FERC affecting natural
gas infrastructure could have significant implications for U.S. natural gas resource development,
prices, and associated environmental and social impacts. Therefore, they are the subject of
scrutiny within Congress and among a wide range of stakeholders.5
This report provides an overview of the federal certification process for interstate natural gas
pipelines and recent policy issues which have been the subject of debate, legislation, and
litigation. It reviews recent executive orders intended to influence federal approval of natural gas
pipeline projects. The report summarizes legislation proposed in the 117th Congress (and prior
Congresses in the Appendix) directed at the federal review of interstate natural gas pipeline
certificate applications. It also summarizes FERC’s inquiry regarding of its policy statement for
natural gas pipeline certification, which serves as the basis of its review of pipeline certificate
applications. The report concludes with a discussion of policy issues for Congress.

1 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Certification of New Interstate Natural Gas Facilities, Notice of
Inquiry, Docket No. PL18-1-000, February 18, 2021. (Hereinafter, FERC 2021 NOI.)
2 FERC, Certification of New Interstate Natural Gas Facilities, Notice of Inquiry, Docket No. PL18-1-000, April 19,
2018. (Hereinafter, FERC 2018 NOI.)
3 Richard Glick, FERC Chairman, letter to the Honorable Joe Manchin III, United States Senate, May 21, 2021.
4 BP, Statistical Review of World Energy 2020, 2020, p. 34.
5 See, for example, U.S. Senator John Hoeven et al., letter to the Honorable Richard Glick, Chairman, et al., FERC,
April 29, 2021. “The Commission’s Policy Statement is critical to the advancement of important natural gas
infrastructure projects.”
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A Growing Gas Pipeline Network
The United States’ supply of natural gas has grown substantially due to technological
advancements, such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, which have increased
producers’ ability to extract natural gas from shale formations. Shale gas is now the dominant
source of U.S. natural gas supply.6 The continued growth in U.S. shale gas production to meet
growing demand in key consuming sectors has been driving the expansion of natural gas pipeline
infrastructure at the local level (to gather and process the gas) and at the national level to
transport natural gas from producing regions to consuming markets, typically in other states. Over
300,000 miles of high-capacity transmission pipeline already transport natural gas across the
United States (Figure 1).7 However, even considering a reduction in demand following the global
COVID-19 pandemic, if long-term growth trends in U.S. shale gas production and demand
continue, the need for new pipelines could still be substantial. One recent analysis by the INGAA
Foundation, a pipeline industry research organization, concluded
As the impacts of COVID-19 diminish over time, the drivers of new infrastructure return....
[A]lmost 33 billion cubic feet (BCF) per day of capacity is expected to be placed into
service through major gas pipeline projects from 2020 through 2025.8
This new infrastructure could amount to several thousand miles of additional interstate pipeline
and on the order of $40 billion in additional capital investment.9

6 U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2021, “U.S. Dry Natural Gas Production by Type,”
February 3, 2021, https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/pdf/03%20AEO2021%20Natural%20gas.pdf.
7 Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, “Annual Report Mileage for Natural Gas Transmission and
Gathering Systems,” web page, March 1, 2021, https://www.phmsa.dot.gov/data-and-statistics/pipeline/annual-report-
mileage-natural-gas-transmission-gathering-systems.
8 INGAA Foundation, North American Midstream Infrastructure—A Near Term Update Through 2025, December
2020, p. 55. The INGAA Foundation is affiliated with the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA), the
interstate gas pipeline industry trade association.
9 Ibid, and INGAA Foundation, “North American Midstream Infrastructure Through 2035: Significant Development
Continues,” June 18, 2018, p. 48. The mileage and capital investment values are CRS estimates based on data in the
INGAA Foundation reports.
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Interstate Natural Gas Pipeline Siting: FERC Policy and Issues for Congress

Figure 1. U.S. Interstate Natural Gas Pipeline System

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration. “U.S. Energy Mapping System,” online maps, accessed March
18, 2021, https://www.eia.gov/state/maps.php.
Figure 2 shows annual additions to natural gas transmission pipeline mileage in the United States
since 2004. As the figure indicates, federal and state agencies have approved significant additions
to the pipeline system over these years, especially after the onset of the shale gas expansion in
2006-2008. Pipeline construction slowed for a five-year period through 2016 as newly added
capacity absorbed new shale gas supplies, but construction increased again from 2017 to 2020.
Altogether, over 23,500 miles of newly constructed gas transmission pipeline have begun service
since 2004. Additional gas pipeline capacity has also become available through conversion of
pipelines carrying other commodities or flow reversal of existing natural gas pipelines. Over
1,500 miles of pipeline have been permitted or are under construction with startup anticipated in
2021, although anticipated additions fall sharply in 2022.
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Figure 2. U.S. Natural Gas Transmission Pipeline Mileage Additions
(Miles)

Source: Energy Information Administration (EIA), “U.S. Natural Gas Pipeline Projects,” online spreadsheet,
January 28, 2021, https://www.eia.gov/naturalgas/data.cfm#pipelines.
Notes: Excludes reversal and conversion projects as well as gathering and distribution lines. Anticipated projects
in 2021 and 2022 include approved projects and projects under construction but excludes projects “on hold.”
Includes some state-regulated (intrastate) pipelines. EIA figures are based on the agency’s analysis of regulatory
filings and industry reports.
FERC Pipeline Certification Process
Under Section 7(c) of the Natural Gas Act of 1938 (NGA), FERC is authorized to issue
certificates of “public convenience and necessity” for “the construction or extension of any
facilities ... for the transportation in interstate commerce of natural gas” (15 U.S.C. §717f(c)).
Therefore, companies seeking to build interstate natural gas pipelines must first obtain certificates
of public convenience and necessity from FERC.10 The commission’s regulatory process for the
review of certificate applications consists of several principal steps, explained below, which may
vary somewhat depending upon whether or not a pipeline developer opts to enter into a voluntary
pre-filing process before formally applying for a pipeline certificate.
Application Pre-Filing
Prior to applying to FERC for a pipeline certificate, developers may file a request to use the
commission’s pre-filing procedures (18 C.F.R. §157.21). The commission established the pre-
filing process to encourage the industry to engage early in project development with the relevant
public and government agencies. The expectation is that the pre-filing will improve a developer’s
proposal and avoid problems during the review of a subsequent FERC certificate application.
However, while FERC encourages pre-filing, it is not required to apply for a pipeline certificate.

10 FERC must also approve the abandonment of gas facility use and services. The commission does not have similar
siting authority over oil pipelines, nor over natural gas pipelines located entirely within a state’s borders not involved in
interstate commerce. Siting of oil and intrastate natural gas pipelines is, instead, variously regulated by the states.
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The pre-filing process involves a set of specific activities by the developer—typically studying
potential project sites, identifying stakeholders, and holding an open house to discuss the project.
Through this process, a developer notifies all stakeholders—including tribal, state, local, and
other federal agencies, and potentially affected property owners—about a proposed project so that
the developer and commission staff can provide public forums to hear stakeholder concerns. The
pipeline developer may then incorporate proposed environmental mitigation measures into the
project design, taking into account stakeholder input. Concurrent with the developer’s activities,
FERC staff participate in public forums and take steps necessary to ensure FERC compliance
with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA, discussed below). For example, FERC
consults with interested stakeholders, including relevant government agencies, and also holds
public scoping meetings and site visits in the proposed project area.11 At the conclusion of pre-
filing, the developer prepares a final application and submits it to FERC.
Certificate Application and FERC Review
Whether pre-filing or not, a pipeline developer must formally apply to FERC for a certificate of
public convenience and necessity. Among other requirements, the application must contain a
description of the proposed pipeline, route maps, construction plans, schedules, and a list of other
statutory and regulatory requirements, such as permits needed from other agencies. The
application must also include environmental reports analyzing route alternatives—to avoid or
minimize environmental damage—and studies of potential environmental impacts (on water,
plants, and wildlife), cultural resources, socioeconomics, soils, geology, aesthetic resources, and
land use.12 Upon receiving an application, the commission issues a public Notice of Application
in the Federal Register and begins the application review process.
Any person seeking to become a party to FERC’s proceeding must file a motion to intervene
pursuant to the commission’s rules (18 C.F.R. §385.214). Intervenors receive the certificate
applicant’s filings and other FERC documents related to the case, as well as materials filed by
other interested parties.13 Only intervenors have the right to file briefs, attend hearings, and appeal
the commission’s decision regarding the certificate. They may also challenge final commission
actions in the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal.
FERC currently exercises its NGA Section 7(c) pipeline certification authority in accordance with
its own regulations and the guidance of its 1999 Policy Statement on Certification of New
Interstate Natural Gas Pipeline Facilities
.14 The statement lays out FERC’s “policy for
determining whether there is a need for a specific project and whether, on balance, the project
will serve the public interest.”15 It also outlines a “flexible balancing process” within which the
commission considers market support; economic, operational, and competitive benefits; and

11 For a flowchart of steps taken by both FERC and certificate applicants, see FERC, “EIS Pre-Filing Environmental
Review Process,” web page, June 25, 2020, https://www.ferc.gov/resources/processes/flow/process-eis.
12 During the review process, FERC, or any intervenor or public commenter, may suggest additional siting alternatives
and modifications to reduce impacts on buildings, fences, crops, water supplies, soil, vegetation, wildlife, air quality,
noise, safety, landowner interests, etc. Commission staff also consider whether a proposed pipeline can be placed near
or within the right-of-way of an existing pipeline, power line, highway, or railroad. See FERC, An Interstate Natural
Gas Facility on My Land?
, August 2015, p. 8.
13 Intervenors are also obligated to mail copies of their own filings to all other parties to the proceeding.
14 18 C.F.R. Part 157.
15 FERC, Certification of New Interstate Natural Gas Pipeline Facilities: Statement of Policy, 88 FERC ¶ 61,227,
Docket No. -000, September 15, 1999.
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environmental impact, among other considerations.16 Economic factors FERC examines include a
project’s potential impact on pipeline competition, the possibility of overbuilding, subsidization
by existing customers, acquiring rights-of-way (including the use of eminent domain), and other
considerations.17 FERC may also take into account safety issues, but generally defers to the
Department of Transportation, which regulates pipeline safety.18 Of the factors above,
environmental review typically has comprised the bulk of FERC’s certificate application review.
Environmental Review Under NEPA
Before FERC can issue a final decision on an application, the agency must identify and consider
the environmental impacts of the proposed project in accordance with NEPA (42 U.S.C. §4321 et
seq.). NEPA requires federal agencies to “take a hard look at environmental consequences” of
their proposed actions (e.g., granting a certificate), consider alternatives, and publicly disseminate
such information before taking final action.19 Although an agency must consider these impacts, it
need not elevate these environmental concerns above others. Under NEPA, federal agencies must
prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) for federal actions “significantly affecting the
quality of the human environment.”20
NEPA also established the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), which issues regulations
and guidance detailing how federal agencies must implement NEPA.21 CEQ’s guidance has
included, for example, guidance on consideration of greenhouse gas emissions and the effects of
climate change (discussed below). In its regulations, CEQ has directed each federal agency to
adopt and supplement the CEQ regulations as necessary to include procedures relevant to that
agency’s authority and ensure that the procedures implementing NEPA are integrated into the
agency’s broader decisionmaking process. Accordingly, FERC has promulgated its own
regulations implementing NEPA at 18 C.F.R. §380.
The CEQ regulations focus primarily on requirements applicable to the preparation of an EIS, but
recognize that documenting compliance with NEPA may involve other procedures. If an agency is
uncertain whether a proposal would have significant impacts, it may prepare an environmental
assessment (EA) to determine if an EIS is necessary or a finding of no significant impact
(FONSI) may be issued. Also, each federal agency is required to identify categories of actions
they are authorized to undertake that have been found to have no significant effect on the

16 88 FERC ¶ 61,227, p. 14.
17 88 FERC ¶ 61,227 and orders clarifying policy, 90 FERC ¶ 61,128 and 92 FERC ¶ 61,094, 2000 as summarized in
Caroyln Elefant, “Knowing and Protecting Your Rights When an Interstate Gas Pipeline Comes to Your Community,”
white paper, Law Offices of Carolyn Elefant, Washington, DC, May 17, 2010, https://lawofficesofcarolynelefant.com/
wp-content/uploads/2010/06/FINALTAGguide.pdf.
18 Pipeline safety regulations are covered in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations. In granting pipeline
certificates, FERC requires that developers comply with DOT pipeline safety standards for design, construction,
operation, and maintenance.
19 Robertson v. Methow Valley Citizens Council, 490 U.S. 332, 350 (1989).
20 NEPA §102(2)(C); 42 U.S.C. §4332(2)(C). Of note, federal actions subject to NEPA are defined to include actions
that require federal agency approvals via a permit or other regulatory approval (40 C.F.R. §1508.18). For more NEPA
information, see CRS Report RL33152, The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA): Background and
Implementation
, by Linda Luther.
21 Council on Environmental Quality, “Regulations for Implementing the Procedural Provisions of the National
Environmental Policy Act,” in 40 C.F.R. Parts 1500-1508 (43 Federal Register 55990, November 28, 1978).
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environment. Such actions are categorically excluded from the need to prepare an EIS or EA and
are, hence, broadly referred to as “categorical exclusions” (CEs or CATEXs).22
CEQ requires agencies to determine whether a proposal has significant impacts by identifying
and analyzing its direct, indirect, and cumulative effects, defined as follows:
Direct effects—caused by the project that occur at the same time and place;23
Indirect effects—caused by the action that are later in time or farther removed in
distance but still reasonably foreseeable;24 and
Cumulative effects—those that result from the incremental impacts of the action
when added to other past, present, or reasonably foreseeable future actions
regardless of what agency (federal or nonfederal) or person undertakes that other
action.25
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-58, EPAct) designates FERC as the “lead agency” for
coordinating NEPA compliance and “all applicable Federal authorizations” in reviewing pipeline
certificate applications (§313(b)). As the lead agency, FERC is required to obtain input from other
“cooperating” agencies with statutory jurisdiction or special expertise regarding any
environmental impact associated with the project (40 C.F.R. §1508.5). Cooperating agencies for a
pipeline project often include the Environmental Protection Agency; the Department of
Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration; the Department of the
Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park
Service; and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps), among others.
After FERC staff complete their environmental analysis and cooperating agency consultations,
the commission issues a draft EIS with initial recommendations for approval or denial of the
certificate. Issuance of the draft EIS also begins a public comment period of at least 45 days,
during which FERC is to hold public meetings in the proposed project area.26 After the conclusion
of the comment period, FERC reviews the comments and revises its draft EIS in response. FERC
then issues a final EIS with final recommendations for approval or denial of the certificate. Under
NEPA, a record of decision—in this context a FERC order—cannot be issued until at least 30
days after FERC publishes a notice of availability of the final EIS (40 C.F.R. §1506.10(b)(2)).
However, there is no additional opportunity for public comment. When the 30-day period is over,
the commission may issue an order approving or denying the certificate.
Certificate Authorities
If FERC grants a pipeline certificate, the commission’s order states the terms and conditions of
the approval, including the authorized pipeline route and any construction or environmental
mitigation measures required for the project. For example, a construction condition might require
that the pipeline be buried at a specific depth under a particular river crossing, or that construction
be limited during a certain time of year to avoid impacts on wildlife. A FERC certificate confers
on the developer the authority to exercise the government’s eminent domain authority if certain

22 Each agency’s regulations implementing NEPA are required to provide for “extraordinary circumstances” in which a
normally excluded action may have significant environmental effect (40 C.F.R. §1508.4).
23 40 C.F.R. §1508.8(a).
24 40 C.F.R. §1508.8(b). In the definition of effects (at 40 C.F.R. §1508), it is noted that the words effects and impacts
are synonymous, as they are used in the CEQ regulations.
25 40 C.F.R. §1508.7.
26 FERC usually establishes a 45-day comment period, the minimum required under 40 C.F.R. §1506.10(c). In some
cases involving very large projects or complex environmental issues, FERC has established longer periods.
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conditions are met (15 U.S.C. §717f(h)). Also, federal law preempts any state or local law that
duplicates or obstructs that federal law (e.g., siting or zoning) relevant to the project. In this way,
a FERC certificate provides a developer with the authority to secure the necessary rights-of-way
to lay the pipeline if the developer cannot secure them from landowners through negotiation.
Although a FERC certificate authorizes a pipeline under the Natural Gas Act, it does not preempt
other federal laws that also may apply—such as the Endangered Species Act or the National
Historic Preservation Act. Any requirements under other federal statutes must still be met. These
requirements may include, for example, securing federal authorizations for water crossings from
the Corps, permission to cross federal lands from the BLM, and other federal approvals.27
Pipeline developers also may need to secure approvals from state agencies under delegated
federal authorities, such as Section 401 water quality certifications under the Clean Water Act (33
C.F.R. §330.4). A developer must secure all these approvals before proceeding with construction.
Post-Certificate Proceedings
Once FERC issues an order granting or denying a pipeline certificate, parties to the proceeding
(e.g., the developer or intervenors) who object to the order for any reason may formally request a
rehearing so that the commission can reconsider its decision. A party to the proceeding must file a
request for rehearing within 30 days after issuance of the final order—a statutory deadline which
the commission cannot waive or extend (15 U.S.C. §717(r)). Upon receiving a rehearing request,
FERC has 30 days to rule on it or the request is deemed denied, in either case allowing a party
involved to appeal FERC’s ruling in federal court.28 The commission, by its own order, may not
authorize pipeline construction to proceed until the earlier of either the date that a qualifying
rehearing request is no longer pending before the Commission or 90 days after the date that a
qualifying rehearing request may be deemed denied.29 If a pipeline certificate is approved after
rehearing, the pipeline project may proceed even if additional court challenges have been filed.
Once the developer has provided FERC with any outstanding information or taken other actions
to satisfy the terms and conditions of the certificate order FERC can issue a Notice to Proceed
with Construction Activities and construction can begin. The pipeline developer must then file
weekly status reports with the commission documenting project inspection and certificate
compliance until construction is completed.
Gas Pipeline Siting Challenges
Over the last decade, proposals for new interstate natural gas pipelines have become increasingly
controversial. Many certificate applications have been subjected to heavy public scrutiny, and
some have faced significant delays in review, as well as protracted litigation. A May 2018 report
by the Department of Energy Inspector General stated that “nothing came to our attention to
indicate that FERC had not generally performed the natural gas certification process in

27 For details about Corps approvals, see CRS Report R44880, Oil and Natural Gas Pipelines: Role of the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers
, by Nicole T. Carter et al.
28 This 30-day deadline was affirmed in a June 30, 2020, judgment by the United States Court of Appeals for the
District of Columbia Circuit in, a case which challenged FERC’s prior use of “tolling” orders to delay ruling on the
merits of certificate rehearing requests. Allegheny Defense Project v. FERC, 964 F. 3d 1 (D.C. Circuit Court of
Appeals, 2020).
29 171 FERC ¶ 61,201 and 175 FERC ¶ 61,098. The limit on construction authorization applies “only when a request
for rehearing raises issues reflecting opposition to project construction, operation, or need.”
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accordance with applicable laws, regulations, policies, and procedures.”30 Nonetheless, aspects of
FERC’s current practices remain a focus of attention among policymakers because they have
been the subject of FERC dissent, debate in Congress, or litigation in federal court.
Identifying Indirect Environmental Impacts
As noted above, FERC is obligated under NEPA to consider the direct and indirect environmental
impacts of certificate proposals. Direct effects often are relatively easy to identify. In the context
of a pipeline project, a direct effect would be associated with the pipeline itself, such as forest
impacts from clearing rights-of-way, or water quality impacts from construction across waterways
and wetlands. However, identifying the indirect effects of a proposed gas pipeline has presented
challenges and, in some cases, has been controversial. Some stakeholders assert that the indirect
“upstream” impacts of a proposed pipeline should include impacts associated with the production
of natural gas, such as fugitive methane emissions from gas wells and gas gathering pipelines.
They also assert that the indirect “downstream” impacts should include the environmental effects
of using natural gas, such as carbon dioxide emissions from natural gas combustion.31
In the past, FERC limited its review of certain upstream or downstream impacts, claiming that
they were not reasonably foreseeable. However, in February 2017, a FERC commissioner argued
that FERC should analyze the upstream environmental effects of increased natural gas production
and should be “open to analyzing the downstream impacts of the use of natural gas.”32 In a related
legal challenge to a pipeline (Sabal Trail) in Florida for which the effects of natural gas use could
be identified, the court ruled that FERC must “either quantify and consider the project’s
downstream carbon emissions or explain in more detail why it cannot do so.”33
In FERC’s 2018 order responding to the Sabal Trail ruling, the majority of commissioners
concluded that, although its supplemental EIS quantified downstream greenhouse gas emissions
associated with the pipeline, there was “no way to determine the significance” of those
emissions.34 However, two commissioners raised objections to the majority’s conclusion, arguing
that the significance of the downstream greenhouse gas emissions could—and should—be
quantified.35 In an unrelated FERC order involving a pipeline in New York, the majority stated
that they were “unable to find based on the record that the potential increase in greenhouse gas
emissions associated with production, non-project transport, and non-project combustion are
causally related” to the commission’s certification of the project, and that “providing a broad
analysis based on generalized assumptions rather than reasonably specific information does not
meaningfully inform the Commission’s project-specific review.”36 The two commissioners
dissented from this conclusion as well, one arguing that “the mere fact that the record does not
contain specific information regarding the greenhouse gas emissions associated with increased

30 U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Inspector General, The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Natural Gas
Certification Process
, Audit Report, DOE-OIG-18-33, May 2018, p. 1. The report did identify four areas for
improvement: process transparency, public access to FERC records, tracking stakeholder comments, and data integrity.
31 See, for example, Sierra Club, “FERC Further Abdicates Its Obligations in Favor of More Pollution,” press release,
May 18, 2018.
32 FERC, Order Granting Abandonment and Issuing Certificates, 158 FERC ¶ 61,145, Docket Nos. CP15-115-000 and
CP-15-115-001, Commissioner Bay, Separate Statement, February 3, 2017, p. 5.
33 Sierra Club, et al. vs. FERC, 857 F.3d 1357, 1375 (D.C. Cir. 2017).
34 FERC, Order on Remand Reinstating Certificate and Abandonment Authorization, 162 FERC ¶ 61,233, Docket Nos.
CP14-554-002, CP15-16-003, and CP15-17-002, March 14, 2018, p. 25.
35 Ibid., “LaFLEUR, Commissioner, dissenting in part,” p. 2, and “GLICK, Commissioner, dissenting,” p. 5.
36 FERC, Order Denying Rehearing, Docket No. CP14-497-001, 163 FERC ¶ 61,128, May 18, 2018.
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production or consumption from a particular natural gas pipeline cannot excuse the Commission
from considering those effects under NEPA.”37
Litigation related to FERC’s environmental reviews has continued—as has disagreement among
commissioners about the proper scope of environmental impacts for pipelines under FERC’s
jurisdiction. For example, in a 2019 legal challenge involving FERC’s approval of a new natural
gas pipeline compressor station, while upholding FERC’s approval, the court nonetheless was
critical of FERC’s examination of both upstream and downstream greenhouse gas emissions
associated with the project.38 In a 2020 FERC order approving another gas pipeline project,
concurring and dissenting opinions by two commissioners, respectively, expanded upon their
prior support for, or rejection of, FERC’s treatment of greenhouse gas emissions in environmental
reviews.39 In March 2021, FERC announced that it had “for the first time assessed the
significance of a proposed natural gas pipeline project’s greenhouse gas emissions and their
contribution to climate change.”40 The associated certificate order (approving Northern Natural
Gas Company pipeline facilities) states
In previous orders, the Commission has concluded that it was unable to assess the
significance of a project’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions or those emissions’
contribution to climate change. Upon reconsideration, we no longer believe that to be the
case. Accordingly ... we assess the significance of the project’s GHG emissions and their
contribution to climate change. Based on the record in this proceeding, we conclude that
those impacts are not significant.41
However, adopting this approach was not unanimous. While concurring with the approval of the
pipeline project, two commissioners dissented (in part) with respect to the greenhouse gas
assessment on legal grounds or because they believed that FERC’s change in approach was
premature.42
Evaluating Project Need
FERC’s review of a certificate application requires the commission to evaluate the public benefit
from the proposed project. Benefits the commission may consider include meeting unserved
demand, eliminating pipeline bottlenecks, accessing new gas supplies, lowering consumer costs,
providing greater reliability, and increasing competition, among others. A principal component of
this evaluation is demonstrated market need for the pipeline in the form of contracts with future
customers for its capacity. As FERC’s current policy states,
a new pipeline project must show market support through contractual commitments for at
least 25 percent of the capacity for the application to be processed by the Commission. An
applicant showing 10-year firm commitments for all of its capacity, and/or that revenues
will exceed costs is eligible to receive a traditional certificate of public convenience and
necessity.43

37 Ibid., “GLICK, Commissioner, dissenting in part,” p. 7.
38 Birckhead vs. FERC, 925 F. 3d 510 (D.C. Cir. 2019).
39 172 FERC ¶ 61,039.
40 FERC, “FERC Reaches Compromise on Greenhouse Gas Significance,” press release, March 18, 2021.
41 174 FERC ¶ 61,189, p. 11.
42 Ibid.
43 88 FERC ¶ 61,227, p. 14.
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Some stakeholders have questioned FERC’s reliance on contracts from future customers (known
as “precedent agreements”) to prove market need, particularly when those contracts involve
companies affiliated with the pipeline developer. The commission considered this concern in
1999 but established no special provisions for developer affiliates. FERC “gives equal weight to
contracts between an applicant and its affiliates and an applicant and unrelated third parties and
does not look behind the contracts to determine whether the customer commitments represent
genuine growth in market demand.”44 Nonetheless, in January 2018 one FERC commissioner
dissented from the approval of a certificate because over three-quarters of the pipeline’s capacity
under precedent agreements was associated with affiliates, and was therefore “insufficient to
carry the developer’s burden to show that the pipeline is needed.”45
In remarks at a February 13, 2018, meeting of state utility regulators, the FERC chairman stated
that the commission would “have to take a look at” whether recent precedent agreements, and
particularly affiliate agreements, represent “valid, arm’s length” demonstrations of pipeline
capacity demand.46 However, an April 2020 order denying a request for certificate rehearing
reaffirmed the commission’s reliance upon precedent agreements, asserting that such agreements
“are significant evidence of demand for a project,” and that FERC is not required to assess project
benefits “by looking beyond the market need reflected by the applicant’s precedent agreements
with shippers.”47
Also related to the issue of market need, some stakeholders have objected to FERC’s project-by-
project approach to evaluating applications—especially for multiple pipelines proposed in one
region.48 Some in Congress have called on FERC to adopt a more overarching approach to
pipeline development, collectively considering existing capacity and multiple projects together
rather evaluating them independently.49 However, FERC has maintained that it “does not engage
in regional planning exercises that would result in the selection of one project over another.”50
Nonetheless, in October 2017 one FERC commissioner dissented from the approval of two
pipelines through Virginia on the grounds that both projects might not be needed due to
geographic proximity.51
Timing and Relations with Other Agencies
There are no statutory time limits within which FERC must complete its own certificate review
process or issue an order. However, EPAct authorizes FERC to establish a schedule for all federal

44 88 FERC ¶ 61,227, p. 15.
45 FERC, “Statement of Commissioner Richard Glick on the PennEast Project,” Docket No. CP15-558-000, January 19,
2018, https://www.ferc.gov/media/statements-speeches/glick/2018/01-19-18-glick.pdf.
46 Kevin McIntyre, FERC Chairman, remarks before the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners,
February 13, 2018, https://www.facebook.com/NARUCToday/videos/2025186407497968/?rc=p.
47 171 FERC ¶ 61,049, pp. 5-6.
48 FERC, Roanoke County’s Motion to Intervene and Identification of Issues, Docket Nos. CP16-10-000 and CP16-13-
000, November 24, 2015, p. 6.
49 See, for example, U.S. Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman, “Watson Coleman, Malinowski Introduce Bill to
Ensure Full Reviews of Proposed Pipelines,” press release, March 31, 2021; and Duncan Adams, “Senators Hope to
Compel FERC to Broaden Analysis of Pipeline Projects,” The Roanoke Times, February 4, 2016.
50 Tamara Young-Allen, FERC, as quoted in: “Feds Reject Consolidated Review of Pipeline Projects,” Associated
Press
, December 10, 2015.
51 FERC, “Statement of Commissioner Cheryl A. LaFleur on Order Issuing Certificates and Granting Abandonment
Authority,” Docket No. CP16-10-000, October 13, 2017, https://www.ferc.gov/media/statements-speeches/lafleur/
2017/10-13-17-lafleur.pdf.
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authorizations and creates a cause of action “if a Federal or State administrative agency” fails to
comply with that schedule (§313(b)). As discussed above, natural gas pipelines typically require
permits from federal and state agencies in addition to FERC. Since 2002, FERC and nine other
federal agencies have operated under an interagency agreement on early coordination required for
review of interstate natural gas pipeline certificate applications.52 Under this agreement, when
FERC receives a certificate application, the agencies commit to early involvement, proactive
participation, sharing of data, informal communication, and resolving disputes. FERC has
promulgated regulations under the EPAct authority requiring certificate-related final decisions
from federal agencies or state agencies (acting under delegated federal authority) no later than 90
days after the commission issues its final environmental document, unless another schedule is
established by federal law (18 C.F.R §157.22).
Congress included the schedule provisions in EPAct to address concerns that some interstate gas
pipeline approvals were being unduly delayed by a lack of coordination or insufficient action
among agencies involved in the certification process.53 Notwithstanding the directives above,
pipeline developers have asserted that cooperating federal agencies have not always coordinated
effectively with FERC in its review of certificate applications and have not always complied with
FERC’s deadlines.54 For example, a 2012 study by the INGAA Foundation concluded that,
despite the schedule provisions in EPAct intended to expedite the review of FERC certificate
applications for gas pipelines, “the time required to secure regulatory approvals for such projects
is increasing.”55 Likewise, some in Congress have argued that gas pipeline reviews have been
“delayed unnecessarily due to a lack of coordination or insufficient action among agencies
involved.”56 Subsequent debate in congressional hearings about the timing of FERC’s certificate
reviews indicated both criticism of and support for FERC’s process.57 In the 116th Congress, there
was relatively less focus on the duration of FERC’s permit reviews compared to other aspects of
FERC’s certification process, but the length of permit review, and project delays due to
subsequent challenges to FERC reviews, remain a key interest among developers and in
Congress.58
FERC staff have stated that the commission seeks to complete review of certificate applications
within 18 to 24 months of filing.59 A review of certificate approvals for larger pipeline projects
over the last decade indicates that FERC has generally, but not always, met a 24-month review

52 FERC et al., “Interagency Agreement on Early Coordination of Required Environmental and Historic Preservation
Reviews Conducted in Conjunction with the Issuance of Authorizations to Construct and Operate Interstate Natural
Gas Pipelines Certificated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission,” May 2002; See also 42 U.S.C. §15928(b).
53 Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Oversight Hearing to Review the Permitting of Energy
Projects, S. Hrg. 109-856, May 25, 2005.
54 See, for example, Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, “INGAA Comments on United States Army Corps
of Engineers; Subgroup of the Department of Defense Regulatory Reform Task Force, Review of Existing Rules,” 82
Fed. Reg. 33,470 (July 20, 2017); Docket ID No. COE-2017-0004,” October 18, 2017, p. 3, http://www.ingaa.org/
File.aspx?id=33450.
55 INGAA Foundation, Expedited Federal Authorization of Interstate Natural Gas Pipelines: Are Agencies Complying
with EPAct?
, Washington, DC, December 21, 2012, p. 2.
56 House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Energy, majority staff memorandum RE: Hearing
entitled “Legislation Addressing Pipeline and Hydropower Infrastructure Modernization,” May 1, 2017, p. 3,
http://docs.house.gov/meetings/IF/IF03/20170503/105916/HHRG-115-IF03-20170503-SD020.pdf.
57 See, for example, debate in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Energy Subcommittee hearing on
Oversight of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the FY2019 Budget, April 17, 2018.
58 U.S. Senator John Hoeven et al., April 29, 2021.
59 FERC, Office of Congressional Affairs, personal communication, May 30, 2018.
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deadline. Figure 3 shows the time from a developer’s filing of a pipeline certificate application to
its certification by the commission for new pipeline construction projects exceeding 20 miles in
length. As the figure shows, of the 60 pipeline projects included, 10 projects were approved more
than 24 months after filing. In addition, FERC’s docket records show one additional application
filed in 2019 and approved in 2020, as well as two pending applications (for 20+ mile pipelines)
filed in 2020.60 The figure does not include the time elapsed during pre-filing, which may vary for
different projects and also may take months. For example, the Mountain Valley Pipeline project
applied for FERC’s approval to pre-file approximately 12 months before filing a certificate
application.61
Figure 3. Review Time for FERC Certificate, Pipelines over 20 Miles Long
Months After Filing

Source: CRS analysis; FERC, “Approved Major Pipeline Projects (1997-Present),” data as of January 2021,
https://www.ferc.gov/industries-data/natural-gas/approved-major-pipeline-projects-1997-present.
Notes: Figure includes only approved projects. Excludes pipeline projects under 20 miles in length, certificates
for natural gas compressor stations, requests for abandonment, and other approval orders. Applications are
shown in chronological order, but spacing does not correspond to specific dates of filing.
Whether FERC’s record of certificate application review demonstrates process efficiency is open
to debate because major pipeline projects are complex and unique. The review periods in Figure
3
are highly varied and do not necessarily show any clear trend. Attempting to quantify or
evaluate FERC’s recent certificate review timing is complicated by the lack of a quorum of FERC
commissioners (required for certificate decisions) for six months in 2017. Furthermore,
application review time may also include time taken by developers responding to questions or
providing supplemental information or analysis requested by regulators, which may be outside
the control of the commission.

60 FERC, “Major Pipeline Projects Pending,” website, data as of March 2021, https://www.ferc.gov/industries-data/
natural-gas/major-pipeline-projects-pending.
61 FERC, Order Issuing Certificates and Granting Abandonment Authority, Docket Nos. CP16-10-000 and CP-13-000,
161 FERC ¶ 61,043, October 13, 2017.
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FERC also has faced challenges in its relations with state agencies exercising delegated federal
permitting authority, particularly for water quality permits under Section 401 of the Clean Water
Act. For example, FERC was involved in litigation for issuing a pipeline’s Section 401 water
quality permits—which were initially denied by a New York state agency—on the grounds of
excessive delay by the state.62 However, FERC declined to challenge New York’s denial of water
quality permits for a different pipeline project because the state made its decision within its one-
year statutory deadline.63 Both projects had been granted FERC certificates but still needed the
state permits before beginning construction.
Changes in the Natural Gas Industry Structure
Over the last 20 years, there have been fundamental changes in the structure of the U.S. natural
gas sector. Most significant among these are widespread use of hydraulic fracturing, new gas
production regions (e.g., the Marcellus formation underlying parts of Pennsylvania and other
states), increasingly interconnected natural gas infrastructure in more populated areas, and greater
dependence on natural gas to fuel power plants. These changes, in turn, have introduced new
considerations in pipeline permit review, including new concerns about greenhouse gas
emissions, potential groundwater and seismic risks, pipeline safety, energy infrastructure security,
and changing contractual relationships with pipeline customers. For example, with the shift away
from coal to natural gas for power generation, regulators and operators have expressed new
concerns about the potential linkage between the availability of natural gas and the reliability of
electricity supply in markets with constrained infrastructure.64 Some stakeholders have asserted
that FERC should change or expand the nature of its certificate reviews to better account for these
new considerations.65
Pipeline Infrastructure for Export
The rapid growth in U.S. natural gas production has led to increased exports of pipeline gas to
Canada and Mexico and of liquefied natural gas to overseas buyers. Some communities affected
by pipeline development have questioned whether FERC appropriately applies the “public
convenience and necessity” standard under the Natural Gas Act to pipeline projects which would
serve export markets.66 FERC has asserted that considerations regarding the domestic versus
foreign destination of natural gas are solely under the jurisdiction of the Department of Energy,
which has statutory authority to approve the export of the natural gas commodity.67 Nonetheless,
some analysts have questioned whether FERC may evaluate pipelines proposed to facilitate
natural gas exports differently from those proposed to supply domestic markets.68

62 Colby Hamilton, “New York Loses Federal Appeal Over Millennium Gas Line Project,” New York Law Journal,
March 12, 2018.
63 FERC, Order on Petition for Declaratory Order, Docket No. CP18-5-000, 162 FERC ¶ 61,014, January 11, 2018.
64 North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), Special Reliability Assessment: Potential Bulk Power
System Impacts Due to Severe Disruptions on the Natural Gas System
, November 2017.
65 See, for example, Susan Tierney, “Natural Gas Pipeline Certification: Policy Considerations for a Changing
Industry,” Analysis Group, Inc., November 6, 2017, p. 15, http://www.analysisgroup.com/uploadedfiles/content/
insights/publishing/ag_ferc_natural_gas_pipeline_certification.pdf.
66 John Dizard, “Trump’s Plan for Energy Dominance Meets Resistance,” Financial Times, February 24, 2018.
67 158 FERC ¶ 61,145, p. 10.
68 L.M. Sixel, “FERC May Rethink Pipeline Permits When LNG Is Headed Overseas,” Houston Chronicle, updated
February 19, 2018, https://www.chron.com/business/energy/article/FERC-may-rethink-pipeline-permits-when-LNG-is-
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In litigation involving a pipeline project proposed partly for exports, a September 2019 court
decision remanded to FERC “for further explanation of why ... it is lawful to credit precedent
agreements with foreign shippers serving foreign customers toward a finding that an interstate
pipeline is required by the public convenience and necessity.”69 In its response to the court, the
Commission provided additional justification for using export precedent agreements as
appropriate evidence of market demand.70 However, some legal analysts continue to question
FERC’s certification of infrastructure developed partly or primarily to serve export markets.71
Environmental Justice72
Environmental justice, which involves concerns of disproportionate risks to health and safety
across communities with differing demographics (e.g., race, national origin, or income), has
become an important factor in natural gas pipeline siting.73 For example, the siting of a natural
gas compressor station for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline in Union Hill, VA—a
predominately African-American community—became the subject of litigation on environmental
justice grounds.74 Since 1997, the President’s Council on Environmental Quality has provided
guidance for taking into account environmental justice in NEPA reviews.75 In 2020, FERC
officials reportedly stated that the commission “takes environmental justice concerns very
seriously,” and that the agency’s environmental reviews under properly analyze “socioeconomic
issues such as environmental justice.”76 Nonetheless, some on the commission and other
stakeholders have criticized FERC’s consideration of environmental justice issues in its pipeline
certification process.77 On February 11, 2021, the FERC chairman announced plans to create a
new senior-level staff position “charged with working with the experts in all FERC program
offices to integrate environmental justice and equity matters into Commission decisions.”78
Public Participation
Some in Congress have expressed concern about the ability of landowners and other members of
the public to understand and participate effectively in FERC’s pipeline certification process.79

12619700.php.
69 City of Oberlin v. FERC, 937 F. 3d (D.C. Cir. 2019)
70 172 FERC ¶ 61,199, pp. 7-13,
71 See, for example, Alexandra B. Klass, “The Public Use Clause in an Age of U.S. Natural Gas Exports,” Stanford
Law Review Online
, April 15, 2020.
72 For further discussion, see CRS Legal Sidebar LSB10590, Addressing Environmental Justice Through NEPA, by
Nina M. Hart and Linda Tsang.
73 For further discussion of the concept of environmental justice, see CRS In Focus IF10529, Role of the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency in Environmental Justice
, by David M. Bearden and Angela C. Jones.
74 Friends of Buckingham v. State Air Pollution Control Board, 19-1152 (U.S. Court of Appeals, 4th Cir. 2020).
75 Council on Environmental Quality, Environmental Justice Guidance Under the National Environmental Policy Act,
December 10, 1997. This guidance was issued consistent with Executive Order 12898, “Federal Actions to Address
Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations,” 59 Federal Register 7629, February 16,
1994.
76 Arianna Skibell and Niina H. Farah, “FERC Faces Environmental Justice Reckoning,” E&E News, July 31, 2020.
77 See, for example, FERC, “Commissioner Richard Glick Dissent Regarding the Rio Grande LNG Terminal and Rio
Bravo Pipeline Projects,” press release, January 23, 2020.
78 FERC, “FERC Chairman Acts to Ensure Prominent FERC Role for Environmental Justice,” press release, February
11, 2021.
79 See, for example, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, “Shaheen Reintroduces Legislation to Boost Public Participation in
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Specific issues have included landowner notification, understanding of property rights, securing
intervenor status, and providing input and comments to FERC during project scoping and review
of permit applications, including NEPA review. In 1978, Congress amended the Federal Power
Act (Section 319) authorizing FERC to establish an Office of Public Participation to “coordinate
assistance to the public with respect to authorities exercised by the Commission,” and “also
coordinate assistance available to persons intervening or participating or proposing to intervene or
participate in proceedings before the Commission” (16 U.S.C. § 825q–1). However, funds were
not subsequently appropriated for this office and FERC did not establish it. In the past, FERC has
asserted that office was unnecessary, stating in a 2007 proceeding that “even if funding were
available, the public interest is adequately represented ... by the Commission, its staff and state
agencies,” but various public advocates and Members of Congress have disagreed with this
assertion.80 Likewise, the FERC chairman remarked in April 2021, “the people who can afford the
high-priced Washington, DC, law firms that participate in our proceedings, they’re adequately
represented, but a lot of other people aren’t—their voices aren’t heard.”81
In the joint House-Senate Appropriations Committee Report accompanying the Consolidated
Appropriations Act, 2021 (P.L. 116-260) Congress again addressed the Office of Public
Participation. The committee directed FERC to submit a report by June 25, 2021, detailing how
the commission will establish and operate the Office of Public Participation, including an
organizational structure and budget, beginning in FY2022 and funded through annual charges and
filing fees as authorized by the Federal Power Act and the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of
1986.82 In accordance with this requirement, FERC announced it would convene a commissioner-
led workshop “as part of an effort to establish the Office of Public Participation” on April 16,
2021.83 The details of FERC’s report, and how its plans may affect the commission’s review of
interstate natural gas pipeline certificate applications, remain to be seen.
Recent Executive Orders
The development of energy pipelines has been a focus of the last four presidents. The Bush,
Obama, Trump, and Biden Administrations issued a series of executive orders directed at the
federal permitting of infrastructure projects, specifically including energy infrastructure. A
number of these orders have been applicable to interstate natural gas pipelines under FERC’s
jurisdiction. Exactly how these orders have affected, or may affect, federal review of interstate
natural gas pipeline siting is not entirely clear, however, due to the complexity of the certification
process and permit obligations under related statutory requirements (e.g., NEPA).
Executive Order 13212
President George W. Bush issued E.O. 13212 on May 18, 2001. Focusing specifically on “energy-
related projects,” the order directs federal agencies to “expedite their review of permits or take

Approval of Energy Projects and Rates,” press release, May 15, 2019.
80 121 FERC ¶ 61,184.
81 Richard Glick, FERC Chairman, online video, FERC offical facebook page, April 13, 2021,
https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=264040458557354.
82 “Explanatory Statement Submitted by Mrs. Lowey, Chairwoman of the House Committee on Appropriations,
Regarding the House Amendment to the Senate Amendment to, Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021,”
Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 166 (December 21, 2020), p. H8378.
83 FERC, “The Office of Public Participation; Notice of Workshop and Request for Panelists,” 86 Federal Register
11764, February 26, 2021.
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other actions as necessary to accelerate the completion of such projects, while maintaining safety,
public health, and environmental protections.”84 In the context of natural gas pipelines, the
principal outcome of this order was the 2002 interagency agreement on early coordination of
pipeline certificate review, which remains in force. In 2005, FERC also signed a memorandum of
understanding with the Corps expanding upon this agreement “to further streamline respective
regulatory processes” consistent with the executive order.85
Executive Order 13604
President Obama issued E.O. 13604 on March 22, 2012, “to significantly reduce the aggregate
time required to make decisions in the permitting and review of infrastructure projects by the
Federal Government, while improving environmental and community outcomes.”86 Among other
requirements, the order called for federal agencies to select “infrastructure projects of national or
regional significance” to track on the online Federal Infrastructure Projects Dashboard (§2(c)).
In the context of this executive order, the Administration cited as a best practice for “pre-
application/application improvements” FERC’s certificate pre-filing process, which was already
in place at the time.87 A May 17, 2013, Presidential Memorandum expanded upon the order,
directing the Steering Committee on Federal Infrastructure Permitting and Review Process
Improvement established by E.O. 13604 “to modernize Federal infrastructure review and
permitting regulations, policies, and procedures to significantly reduce the aggregate time
required by the Federal Government to make decisions in the review and permitting of
infrastructure projects,” including pipelines.88 However, it is not clear to what extent, if any, the
executive order and memorandum may have led to changes to aspects of FERC certification for
pipelines. None of the three pipelines from this period presumably identified as being “of national
or regional significance” (because they are listed on the federal permitting dashboard) were
natural gas pipelines.89
Executive Order 13766
Issued by President Trump on January 24, 2017, the order was intended “to streamline and
expedite, in a manner consistent with law, environmental reviews and approvals for all
infrastructure projects, especially projects that are a high priority for the Nation, such as ...

84 Executive Order 13212, “Actions to Expedite Energy-Related Projects,” May 18, 2001.
85 Department of the Army, “Memorandum of Understanding between the Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission for Interstate Natural Gas Pipeline Projects,” July 11, 2005, https://www.ferc.gov/
legal/mou/mou-30.pdf.
86 Executive Order 13604, “Improving Performance of Federal Permitting and Review of Infrastructure Projects,”
March 22, 2012. In a memorandum released the same day, the President called on federal agencies to “coordinate and
expedite their reviews, consultations, and other processes as necessary to expedite decisions related to domestic
pipeline infrastructure projects,” but this directive was limited to a “domestic pipeline system for the transportation of
crude oil.” See The White House, “Presidential Memorandum—Expediting Review of Pipeline Projects from Cushing,
Oklahoma, to Port Arthur, Texas, and Other Domestic Pipeline Infrastructure Projects,” March 22, 2012.
87 The White House, Implementing Executive Order 13604 on Improving Performance of Federal Permitting and
Review of Infrastructure Projects
, June 2012, p. 26.
88 The White House, “Modernizing Federal Infrastructure Review and Permitting Regulations, Policies, and
Procedures,” Presidential memorandum, May 17, 2013.
89 Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council, “Permitting Dashboard,” online database, May 21, 2018,
https://www.permits.performance.gov/projects. The three listed projects were oil pipelines and are currently
categorized as “legacy” projects.
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pipelines.”90 Among other provisions, the order permitted governors, federal department and
agency heads, or the FERC chairman to request “high priority” status for a project with respect to
“expedited procedures and deadlines for completion of environmental reviews and approvals”
(§3). CRS has identified no interstate natural gas pipelines which were classified as high priority
under this order.
Executive Order 13777
Issued by President Trump on February 24, 2017, the order was intended “to lower regulatory
burdens on the American people by implementing and enforcing regulatory reform.”91 The order
required agencies to evaluate existing regulations and identify regulations for repeal, replacement,
or modification. Targeted regulations included those that, among other considerations, eliminated
jobs (or inhibited job creation); were outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective; or imposed costs that
exceeded benefits. In response to the order, FERC “established a regulatory reform task force to
perform a thorough review of the Commission’s regulations, policies, and processes, and to
identify opportunities to reduce regulatory burdens.”92 The commission also issued its April 19,
2018, NOI regarding its pipeline certification policies.
Executive Order 13783
Issued by President Trump on March 28, 2017, the order generally aimed to establish a policy to
promote domestic energy development and use, and ensure affordable and reliable electricity. To
accomplish these broad goals, the order directed executive agencies to review their existing
regulations and “appropriately suspend, revise, or rescind those that unduly burden” domestic
energy production or use, “with particular attention to oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy
resources.” The order also rescinded guidance intended to help federal agencies determine how
and when to assess climate change effects and costs in rulemakings and environmental reviews.
As directed by the order, the CEQ withdrew its 2016 guidance, Consideration of Greenhouse Gas
Emissions and the Effects of Climate Change in National Environmental Policy Act Reviews
. On
June 26, 2019, CEQ published draft NEPA guidance on consideration of greenhouse gas
emissions intended to replace the 2016 guidance.93
Being an independent agency, FERC was not subject to the executive order. Nonetheless, on
November 1, 2017, the commission voluntarily submitted a report reviewing FERC actions
pursuant to the order, which, among other things, encompassed the commission’s regulations,
guidance documents, and policies related to pipeline certification and environmental review under
NEPA.94 The report concluded that “the majority of agency actions relating to the siting and
construction of interstate natural gas transportation ... do not materially burden the transportation

90 Executive Order 13766, “Expediting Environmental Reviews and Approvals for High Priority Infrastructure
Projects,” January 24, 2017.
91 Executive Order 13777, “Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda,” February 24, 2017.
92 FERC, “Federal Energy Regulatory Commission One Federal Decision Implementation Plan,” July 9, 2018, p. 3.
93 Council on Environmental Quality, “Draft National Environmental Policy Act Guidance on Consideration of
Greenhouse Gas Emissions,” 84 Federal Register 30097-30099, June 26, 2019.
94 FERC, “Final Report: Review of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Agency Actions Pursuant to Executive
Order 13783, Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth,” 82 Federal Register 50517-50523, November
1, 2017.
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or delivery of domestically produced natural gas,” and that there was “no need for the
Commission to consider any revision to this regulation.”95
Executive Order 13807
Issued by President Trump on August 15, 2017, the order was intended “to ensure that the Federal
environmental review and permitting process for infrastructure projects is coordinated,
predictable, and transparent.” The explicit goal of the order was to complete federal
environmental reviews and permitting decisions for major projects within two years of
application (§2(h)).96 A key component of E.O. 13807 was a “One Federal Decision” framework,
whereby each “major” infrastructure project had one lead federal agency responsible for the
overall permit process and issuing one Record of Decision, incorporating individual decisions
from cooperating or participating agencies (§5(b)).
On April 9, 2018, the FERC chairman signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with other
federal agencies to implement E.O. 13807.97 Under the MOU, the agencies agree to “undertake to
meet the goal set forth in E.O. 13807 of reducing the time to two years for each agency to
complete all environmental reviews and authorization decisions for major infrastructure projects”
through implementation of One Federal Decision, communication, concurrent reviews, adherence
to a review timetable, and commitment to agency-specific and collective review process
enhancements (§V). FERC already was the lead agency for pipeline certificate environmental
review and had statutory authority to set a review timetable under EPAct, so it appears the impact
of the MOU may have been primarily from cooperating agency coordination and setting the two-
year goal. However, it is an open question how it has affected FERC’s ongoing review of pipeline
certificate applications. Nonetheless, FERC stated at the time that it was “committed to carrying
out the goals of Executive Order 13807 to improve the efficiency, timing, and overall
predictability of the certification process.”98
Executive Order 13868
Issued by President Trump on April 10, 2019, the order stated that “outdated federal guidance and
regulations regarding Section 401” of the Clean Water Act are “causing confusion and uncertainty
and are hindering the development of energy infrastructure.”99 Among other things, the order
directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review and issue new guidance to
supersede the existing Section 401 guidance and to revise the agency’s existing Section 401
implementing regulations. The order instructed EPA to focus on the need to promote timely
federal-state cooperation, the appropriate scope of water quality reviews, the types of conditions
that may be appropriate to include in a certification, expectations for review times for different
types of certification requests, and the nature and scope of information states may need to act on a
certification request. EPA subsequently issued revised Section 401 guidance and, in July 2020, a

95 Ibid. p. 50521.
96 Executive Order 1387, “Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting
Process for Infrastructure Projects,” August 15, 2017.
97 The White House, “Memorandum of Understanding Implementing One Federal Decision Under Executive Order
13807,” April 9, 2018, https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/MOU-One-Federal-Decision-m-18-
13-Part-2.pdf.
98 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Certification of New Interstate Natural Gas Facilities, Notice of
Inquiry, Docket No. PL18-1-000, April 19, 2018, p. 22.
99 Executive Order 13868, “Promoting Energy Infrastructure and Economic Growth,” April 10, 2019.
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final water quality certification rule which replaced the prior implementing regulations.100
Although not directed at FERC, the EPA’s guidance and rulemaking was intended, in part, to
facilitate the state permitting of interstate natural gas pipelines also under FERC’s NGA
jurisdiction.
Executive Orders 13990, 13992, and 14008
Issued by President Biden on January 20, 2021, E.O. 13990 asserts a policy to, among other
things, “hold polluters accountable, including those who disproportionately harm communities of
color and low-income communities; to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; to bolster resilience to
the impacts of climate change; ... and to prioritize ... environmental justice.”101 The order directs
all executive departments and agencies to review and address the promulgation of regulations and
other actions during the last four years that conflict with these objectives, “and to immediately
commence work to confront the climate crisis.”102 This order also revokes Executive Orders
13766, 13783, 13807, and 13868.
On January 25, 2021, President Biden also issued E.O. 13992, which “revokes harmful policies
and directives that threaten to frustrate the Federal Government’s ability to confront ... problems”
including the COVID-19 pandemic, economic recovery, racial justice, and climate change.103 The
order revokes Executive Order 13777.
On January 27, 2021, President Biden issued E.O. 14008, which asserts an Administration policy
“to organize and deploy the full capacity of its agencies to combat the climate crisis to implement
a Government-wide approach that reduces climate pollution in every sector of the economy” and
“delivers environmental justice,” among other objectives.104 Although FERC, being an
independent agency, is not directly subject to these executive orders, the commission stated in
March 2021 that “there have been a series of recent administrative changes,” specifically E.O.
13990 and E.O. 14008, “and we continue to evaluate their impact on our review process.”105
Legislative Proposals
Over the last 20 years, Congress has acted frequently to oversee FERC’s certification of interstate
natural gas pipelines through hearings and correspondence with the commission.106 Members of
Congress also have proposed legislation to change FERC’s review of gas pipeline certificate
applications, either specifically or as one category among a broader range of infrastructure
projects. Proposals also have sought to change FERC’s regulations with respect to certificates it
has issued to pipeline developers.

100 Environmental Protection Agency. “Clean Water Act Section 401 Certification Rule,” 85 Federal Register 42210-
42287, July 13, 2020
101 Executive Order 13990, “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the
Climate Crisis,” January 20, 2021.
102 Ibid.
103 Executive Order 13992, “Revocation of Certain Executive Orders Concerning Federal Regulation,” January 25,
2021.
104 Executive Order 14008, “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” January 27, 2021.
105 FERC, East Lateral XPress Project, Environmental Assessment, Docket No. CP20-527-000, March 2021, p. 72.
106 See, for example, U.S Representative Stephen F. Lynch, and U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey,
letter to the Honorable Richard Glick, Chairman, FERC, February 19, 2021, https://lynch.house.gov/index.cfm?a=
Files.Serve&File_id=CDF3115A-C4E0-4B4C-9C4F-EC87566542ED.
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Proposals in Prior Congresses
In the 111th-116th Congresses, bills which were not enacted sought to increase FERC public
hearings, limit eminent domain authority, expand the scope of FERC’s environmental review,
require regional review of multiple projects, and impose specific deadlines on FERC and
cooperating agencies, among other measures. Title 41 of the Fixing America’s Surface
Transportation Act (P.L. 114-94; FAST-41), which became law on December 4, 2015, revised the
process for federal approval of a range of major infrastructure projects by establishing best
practices, requiring coordination of federal agency review of projects, and shortening the period
for challenges to final decisions for issuing project permits. Infrastructure projects covered by the
act are those requiring environmental review under NEPA and requiring investment exceeding
$200 million (§41001).107 As of April 2021, the permitting dashboard listed four natural gas
pipeline projects (two completed) covered under FAST-41 with FERC as the lead agency.108 A
summary table of the relevant legislative proposals in the 111th-116th Congresses is provided in
the Appendix.
Legislative Proposals in the 117th Congress
Some Members of Congress have introduced legislative proposals in the 117th Congress involving
FERC’s certification authority or review process. Table 1 summarizes the key provisions in these
bills related to natural gas pipeline certification. As the table shows, the proposals variously
would require FERC to collectively review multiple pipelines proposed in the same region, hold
more public meetings, restrict the use of eminent domain, and more broadly consider greenhouse
gas emissions. Some would require environmental monitoring of completed pipelines and
mandate greater cooperation and transparency of permit review by federal agencies.

Table 1. Current Legislative Proposals Involving FERC Certification of Pipelines
(117th Congress)
Bill Title
Bill Number
Key FERC Provisions
Landowner Fairness Act
S. 641
Would require FERC to consider certain factors in
pipeline permitting, would modify eminent domain
requirements, and would prohibit using NGA
eminent domain for a pipeline built for exports.
Ending Natural Gas Companies’ Seizure of
S. 655
Would prohibit the use of eminent domain by a
Land for Export Profits Act
FERC permit holder for a pipeline to be built
substantially for exports.
Environmental Justice Mapping and Data
H.R. 516
Would establish an interagency Environmental Justice
Col ection Act of 2021
Mapping Committee, including FERC, to create a tool
to identify environmental justice communities.

107 The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) jointly issued
guidance for agencies to comply with FAST-41. See OMB and CEQ, “Guidance to Federal Agencies Regarding the
Environmental Review and Authorization Process for Infrastructure Projects,” memorandum, January 13, 2017.
108 Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council, “Federal Infrastructure Permitting Dashboard,” online database,
April 30, 2021, accessible at https://www.permits.performance.gov/projects.
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Bill Title
Bill Number
Key FERC Provisions
CLEAN Future Act
H.R. 1512
Would revise and fund FERC’s Office of Public
Participation to represent the interests of the public
in NGA-related proceedings. Would prohibit
pipeline companies from using NGA eminent domain
authority until they have all necessary federal and
state permits and comply with environmental permit
conditions. Would also prohibit using eminent
domain for natural gas pipelines to be built for
import or export.
Promoting Interagency Coordination for
H.R. 1616
Would expand FERC’s authority to act as the lead
Review of Natural Gas Pipelines Act
agency for coordinating all federal authorizations and
NEPA environmental reviews with respect to a
natural gas pipeline project. Also would require
consultation with the Transportation Security
Administration regarding pipeline security.
Safe and Accountable Federal Energy
H.R. 2115
Would require FERC to conduct an evidentiary
Review for Pipelines Act of 2021
hearing and/or cumulative review of major energy
infrastructure projects planned throughout a region.
Would require FERC to consider the existence of
other regional pipelines or underutilized pipeline
capacity in permit application reviews. Would
require FERC to monitor environmental impacts of
all approved and constructed projects for five years.
To amend the Natural Gas Act with
H.R. 2889
Would prevent pipeline companies from using NGA
respect to actions for eminent domain by
eminent domain authority until they have all
holders of certificates of public
necessary federal and state permits for construction
convenience and necessity, and for other
and operation.
purposes.
Sources: http://www.congress.gov, CRS analysis.
Notes: FERC= Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, NEPA = National Environmental Policy Act, NGA =
Natural Gas Act.
FERC’s Policy Review
As discussed earlier, FERC’s review of pipeline certificate applications is guided by its Policy
Statement on Certification of New Interstate Natural Gas Pipeline Facilities
issued in 1999. On
December 21, 2017, the FERC chairman announced that the commission would undertake a
review of its permitting policies and procedures for interstate natural gas pipelines. Accordingly,
on April 19, 2018, the commission issued a Notice of Inquiry “to examine its policies in light of
changes in the natural gas industry and increased stakeholder interest in how it reviews natural
gas pipeline proposals.”109 More specifically, the commission’s notice posed “a range of questions
that reflected concerns raised in numerous public comments, court proceedings and other
forums,” and sought input on “potential changes to both the existing Policy Statement and the
structure and scope of the Commission’s environmental analysis” as well as “feedback on the
transparency, timing, and predictability of its certification process.”110

109 FERC, “Commission Initiates Notice of Inquiry into Pipeline Certificate Policy Statement,” press release, R-18-16,
April 19, 2018.
110 Ibid.
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According to its notice, FERC’s inquiry focused on four general aspects of its certificate
application review, with specific questions posed under each aspect
 relying on precedent agreements to demonstrate project need,
 eminent domain and landowner interests,
 evaluating project alternatives and environmental effects, and
 the efficiency and effectiveness of FERC’s certificate processes.111
FERC’s inquiry was opened for public comments through July 25, 2018.112 However, according
to the NOI, the commission intended to make no decisions on possible further action related to its
inquiry until it had reviewed the comments filed; the commission did not state any timetable for
completing this review.113 (FERC issued its 1999 policy statement over 13 months after
publishing a Notice of Inquiry for that proceeding.114) Through 2020, the commission took no
further action related to the NOI.
Reopening the Policy Review
On January 21, 2021 President Biden appointed a new FERC chairman (elevating a commissioner
who joined FERC in 2017).115 The appointment followed the November 30, 2020, Senate
confirmation of two new commissioners, restoring FERC to its full statutory complement of five
commissioners.116 On February 18, 2021, under its new chairman, FERC announced that it had
“reopened” its review of the 1999 policy statement and published a new NOI “asking for new
information and additional perspectives that would assist the Commission in moving forward
with its review ... looking to build upon the record already established.”117 In the announcement,
the FERC chairman stated “it’s important to recognize that many changes have occurred since our
initial inquiry three years ago.” At an industry event, the FERC chairman subsequently stated “we
have ... reinvigorated a proceeding that was begun many years ago,” noting that “our whole
process has come under some criticism—I’ve been critical of some aspects of it.”118
The 2021 NOI reaffirms the commission’s interest in the four general aspects of its certificate
application review covered in its 2018 NOI, some with modification. It also poses new questions
on an additional issue area examining FERC’s “identification and addressing of any
disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs,
policies, and activities on environmental justice communities and the mitigation of those adverse

111 FERC 2018 NOI, pp. 45-46.
112 FERC, “Certification of New Interstate Natural Gas Facilities,” 83 Federal Register 24780, May 30, 2018. The
comment period was extended 30 days from an original closing date of June 25, 2018.
113 FERC 2018 NOI, p. 4.
114 FERC, “Regulation of Interstate Natural Gas Transportation Services,” Notice of Inquiry, 63 Federal Register
42974, 84 FERC ¶ 61,087, July 29, 1998.
115 FERC, “President Biden Names Glick Chairman of FERC,” press release, January 21, 2021.
116 FERC, “Senate Votes to Confirm Christie, Clements to Commission,” press release, November 30, 2020.
117 FERC, “FERC Revisits Review of Policy Statement on Interstate Natural Gas Pipeline Proposals,” press release,
February 18, 2021.
118 Richard Glick, FERC Chairman, remarks at the Women’s Council on Energy and the Environment, Virtual
Executive Series, April 29, 2021, video available at https://youtu.be/NT0jnNl6tpw.
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impacts and burdens.”119 The NOI solicits new information and stakeholder perspectives related
to the following five aspects of review, again, with specific questions posed under each aspect:
 potential adjustments to determination of need,
 eminent domain and landowner interests,
 consideration of environmental impacts,
 efficiency of the commission’s review process, and
 consideration of effects on environmental justice communities.120
The initial deadline for comments in the NOI was April 26, 2021, but it was subsequently
extended to May 26, 2021.121 The commission has established no deadline for taking further
actions with respect to the ROI, although the chairman has stated “I suspect we’ll be able to act
..., hopefully soon on this gas pipeline certificate proceeding.”122 Any FERC pipeline certification
activities or decisions in the meantime would be made in accordance with the 1999 policy
statement. Moreover, the FERC Chairman has stated that “the Commission will not wait to act on
Certificate applications while we consider options for improving the process.”123 Because
FERC’s policy statement is only a guidance document, not a regulation or statute, the commission
has considerable discretion regarding if, when, and how it will apply any policy changes to
pending certificate applications.124
Policy Issues for Congress
Congress has been interested in the development of natural gas pipelines for decades, with a
particular focus on siting and environmental impacts in recent years. Some in Congress generally
see such pipeline development as positive, primarily due to its perceived economic benefits in
terms of construction employment, lower natural gas prices, and environmental benefits relative
to burning more carbon-intensive fossil fuels (i.e., coal). Others generally view gas pipeline
development more critically, primarily due to environmental concerns from greenhouse gas
emissions. Still others are focused primarily on the local effects of gas pipeline development
related to public safety, the impacts on lands, the acquisition of private property through eminent
domain, and impacts on environmental justice communities. Pipeline proponents would rather see
more and faster pipeline development, whereas opponents would rather see less—preferring
instead a greater policy emphasis on energy alternatives, such as renewable electricity generation,
they view as more environmentally or socially benign.
Because FERC has the statutory authority to approve or deny certificates for interstate natural gas
pipelines, the policy views above have led to persistent congressional scrutiny of FERC’s pipeline
certification process and decisions. Concerns about gas pipelines have motivated repeated
attempts at congressional intervention. In total, over 40 bills have been introduced since the 111th
Congress (seven in the current Congress alone) which would affect various aspects of FERC’s
review of pipeline certificate applications. Of these, only the FAST Act (which seems to have

119 FERC 2021 NOI, p. 4.
120 FERC 2021 NOI.
121 FERC, “Notice Extending Time for Comments,” Docket No. PL18-1-000, March 31, 2021.
122 Richard Glick, April 29, 2021.
123 Richard Glick, May 21, 2021.
124 U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc., et al., v.
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
, No. 01-1345, January 17, 2003, https://www.cadc.uscourts.gov/internet/
opinions.nsf/4B1331E528B23FC485256F82005F46BE/$file/01-1345a.txt.
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applied to only a few of FERC’s gas pipeline reviews) and the Consolidated Appropriations Act,
2021 became law. Therefore, absent any other statutory changes, Congress must rely on FERC to
address policy concerns on its own volition in response to congressional oversight, federal court
decisions, and public input.
FERC’s recent Notice of Inquiry covers a number of the key congressional concerns raised either
in oversight hearings or bill provisions in the 117th Congress. Examples include eminent domain
authority (H.R. 2115), environmental justice (H.R. 516), and determining market need (S. 1314).
Therefore, while FERC’s policy review does not guarantee any changes to the gas pipeline
certification status quo, it may provide valuable information and context for congressional
oversight. If Congress disagrees with FERC’s future policy choices based on the findings of its
NOI, those findings presumably would provide an informed basis and clear policy context for
subsequent legislative proposals.
Although recent executive and agency actions, including FERC’s agreements with other agencies
and its NOI, may lead to changes in FERC policies or process, they are limited to those aspects of
gas pipeline regulation which fall directly within the commission’s statutory authority under the
Natural Gas Act or within its discretion under other federal statutes. This is a significant
limitation because much of FERC’s pipeline certificate review is environmental review in
compliance with NEPA. While the bills identified in this report, and FERC’s policy review, could
change how FERC interprets or fulfills its obligations under NEPA, they would not amend NEPA
itself. Likewise, they would not amend other federal statutes, such as the Clean Water Act or the
Clean Air Act, which also may have a bearing on gas pipeline siting approval.


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Appendix: Past FERC Permit Legislative Proposals
Table 2.Past Legislative Proposals to Change FERC Certification of Pipelines
(111th through 116th Congresses)
Bill
Last Major
Congress
Bill Title
Number
Action
Key FERC Provisions
111th
To require [FERC] to
S. 32
Referred to
Would have required FERC to hold a
hold at least one public
Subcommittee
public hearing in each county and locality
hearing before
affected by a pipeline proposal. Also would
issuance of a permit
H.R. 1922 Referred to
have required additional public hearings, if
affecting public or
Committee
requested, for issues not addressed in an
private land use in a
initial hearing.
locality
112th
Reaffirming
H.R. 3913 Referred to
Would have prohibited eminent domain
Constitutional
Subcommittee
for pipelines to be constructed for
Property Rights Act
transporting natural gas to an LNG
terminal for export.
113th
American Energy
H.R. 2
Passed in
Would have imposed on FERC a 12-month
Solutions for Lower
House
deadline to approve or deny pipeline
Costs and More
permit applications after pre-filing. Would
American Jobs Act
have required 90-day permit review for
pre-filed pipeline projects by other federal
113th
American Renaissance
H.R. 5360 Introduced
agencies involved; if a permit were not
in Manufacturing Act
approved or denied by this deadline,
approval would have taken effect.
114th
North American
S. 2012
House/Senate
Would have required FERC to identify and
Energy Security and
Conference
notify agencies participating in certificate
Infrastructure Act of
Held
review; federal permit decisions within 90
2016
days of FERC completing NEPA review;
and concurrent review by cooperating
agencies of non-NEPA actions. Would have
required greater transparency in review
scheduling, status, and reporting of delays.
114th
Fixing America’s
H.R. 22
Became P.L.
Title 41 requires greater agency
Surface Transportation
114-94
coordination and oversight of federal
(FAST) Act
review for infrastructure projects (e.g.,
pipelines) subject to NEPA and requiring
investment over $200 mil ion. Establishes a
Federal Permitting Improvement Steering
Council—including FERC—to oversee,
facilitate, and recommend schedules and
best practices for federal permitting.
Requires greater transparency in review
scheduling, status, and reporting of delays.
114th
Natural Gas Pipeline
H.R. 161
Passed in
Would have imposed on FERC a 12-month
Permitting Reform Act
House
deadline to approve or deny pipeline
permit applications after pre-filing. Would
have required 90-day permit review for
pre-filed pipeline projects by other federal
agencies involved; if a permit were not
approved or denied by this deadline,
approval would have taken effect.
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Bill
Last Major
Congress
Bill Title
Number
Action
Key FERC Provisions
114th
Safer Pipelines Act of
H.R. 5630 Referred to
If a proposed pipeline expansion were
2016
Committee
challenged, would have required a FERC
evidentiary hearing on the need for
expansion or a cumulative review of
energy projects planned in the region. For
new pipelines, would have required FERC
to consider under NEPA the cumulative
impacts of other pipeline projects in the
same state or within 100 miles.
115th
Timely Review of
S. 8
Referred to
Would have authorized FERC to raise staff
Infrastructure Act
Committee
pay so as to carry out its functions in a
timely, efficient, and effective manner.
115th
Timely Review of
H.R. 6552 Referred to
Infrastructure Act
Subcommittee
115th
Public Engagement at
S. 1240
Referred to
Would have revised and expanded FERC’s
FERC Act
Committee
Office of Public Participation to represent
the interests of the public in proceedings
115th
Public Engagement at
H.R. 2656 Referred to
on rates, service, and infrastructure siting.
FERC Act
Subommittee
115th
Pipeline Fairness and
S. 1314
Referred to
Would have required FERC to prepare a
Transparency Act
Subcommittee
supplemental EIS for an application if FERC
makes a substantial change or in case of
115th
Pipeline Fairness and
H.R. 2893 Referred to
new environmental circumstances or
Transparency Act
Committee
information. Also would have required
environmental impact mitigation plans;
public meetings in project counties; and
review of cumulative visual impacts on
national scenic trails. S. 1314 P.L. 99-3 H.R.
133 also would have required multiple
pipelines proposed within 100 miles of
each other to be evaluated as one project
under NEPA.
115th
Independent Agency
S. 1448
Referred to
Would have authorized the President to
Regulatory Analysis
Committee
require an independent regulatory agency
Act of 2017
to comply with analysis requirements
applicable to other federal agencies, and
115th
Promoting Interagency
H.R. 2910 Passed in
assess costs and benefits of economically
Coordination for
House
significant rules and alternatives.
Review of Natural Gas
Pipelines Act
115th
Energy and Natural
S. 1460
Committee
Would have required FERC to identify and
Resources Act of 2017
Hearings Held
notify agencies participating in review.
Would have required federal permit
decisions within 90 days of FERC
completing NEPA and concurrent review
by cooperating agencies of non-NEPA
actions. Would have required greater
transparency in review scheduling, status,
and reporting of delays.
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Bill
Last Major
Congress
Bill Title
Number
Action
Key FERC Provisions
115th
Rebuild America Now
S. 1756
Committee
Would have imposed on FERC a one-year
Act
Hearings Held
deadline to approve or deny pipeline
permit applications after pre-filing. Would
have required 90-day permit review for
pre-filed pipeline projects by other federal
agencies involved; if a permit were not
approved or denied by this deadline,
approval would take effect. Would have
allowed aerial survey data to satisfy
pipeline permit preliminary requirements.
115th
Safer Pipelines Act of
H.R. 2649 Referred to
If a proposed pipeline expansion were
2017
Subcommittee
challenged, would have required FERC to
assign the application to an administrative
law judge to conduct an evidentiary hearing
on the need for the expansion and report
the findings. Would have required FERC to
cumulatively review major energy projects
planned in the region. For new interstate
pipelines, would have required FERC to
consider under NEPA the cumulative
impacts of other projects in the same state
or within 100 miles.
115th
To require [FERC] to
H.R. 3241 Referred to
Would have required FERC environmental
consider greenhouse
Committee
reviews under NEPA to consider
gas emissions related
greenhouse gas emissions from pipeline
to natural gas
construction and operation, and the
pipelines, and for
production, transportation, and
other purposes
combustion of the natural gas to be
transported through the pipeline.
115th
Natural Gas Pipeline
H.R. 4381 Referred to
Would have suspended construction of
Public Health
Committee
FERC-certificated natural gas facilities until
Protection Act of 2017
remediation of air quality violations.
115th
No title
H. Amdt.
Not agreed to
Would have excluded from provisions in
204 to
H.R. 2910 pipelines on lands managed for
H.R. 2910
conservation or recreation.
115th
No title
H. Amdt.
Not agreed to
Would have required FERC to supplement
206 to
an environmental impact statement under
H.R. 2910
NEPA for a pipeline project if there is a
substantial change in the proposed action
or significant new circumstances or
information.
116th
Timely Review of
S. 607
Reported by
Would have authorized FERC to raise staff
Infrastructure Act
Committee
pay so as to carry out its functions in a
timely, efficient, and effective manner.
116th
Independent Agency
S. 869
Referred to
Would have authorized the President to
Regulatory Analysis
Committee
require an independent regulatory agency
Act
to comply with analysis requirements
applicable to other federal agencies, and
assess costs and benefits of economically
significant rules and alternatives.
116th
Public Engagement at
S. 1477
Referred to
Would have revised and expanded FERC’s
FERC Act
Committee
Office of Public Participation to represent
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Interstate Natural Gas Pipeline Siting: FERC Policy and Issues for Congress

Bill
Last Major
Congress
Bill Title
Number
Action
Key FERC Provisions
116th
Public Engagement at
H.R. 3240 Referred to
the interests of the public in proceedings
FERC Act
Subcommittee
on rates, service, and infrastructure siting.
116th
Federal Permitting
S. 1976
Referred to
Would have required FERC to report to
Reform and Jobs Act
Committee
Congress recommendations on ways to
reconcile FERC permitting regulations with
116th
Federal Permitting
H.R. 3671 Reported by
requirements under the FAST Act.
Reform and Jobs Act
Subcommittee
116th
Pipeline Fairness,
S. 4502
Referred to
Would have amended the NGA to address
Transparency, and
Committee
landowner notice, eminent domain, and
Responsible
environmental review for interstate natural
Development Act of
gas pipelines, as well as their impacts on
2020
national scenic trails. Also would have set a
45-day deadline on FERC permit rehearing
decisions.
116th
Reaffirming Property
S. 4673
Referred to
Would have required FERC to consider
Rights Through
Committee
certain factors in issuing pipeline permits
Natural Gas Act
and would modify eminent domain
Modernization Act
requirements pipeline construction.
116th
Consolidated
H.R. 133
Became P.L.
Committee report directs FERC to submit
Appropriations Act,
116-260
a report detailing how it wil establish and
2021
operate the Office of Public Participation,
including an organizational structure and
budget, beginning in FY2022.
116th
Pipeline Fairness and
H.R. 173
Referred to
Would have amended the NGA to address
Transparency Act
Subcommittee
eminent domain and environmental review
for interstate natural gas pipelines, as well
as their impacts on national scenic trails.
116th
Reaffirming
H.R. 2198 Referred to
Would have prohibited the use of eminent
Constitutional
Subcommittee
domain by a FERC permit holder for a
Property Rights Act
pipeline supplying an LNG export facility.
116th
Promoting Interagency
H.R. 3983 Referred to
Would have required that federal, state,
Coordination for
Committee
and local agencies involved in
Review of Natural Gas
environmental review defer to FERC’s
Pipelines Act
approved scope for NEPA review. Would
have required FERC permit decisions
116th
Promoting Interagency
H.R. 7401 Referred to
within 90 days of completing NEPA review.
Coordination for
Subcommittee
Would require concurrent review by
Review of Natural Gas
cooperating agencies. H.R. 3983 also would
Pipelines Act
have required consultation with the
Transportation Security Administration
regarding pipeline security
116th
To require [FERC] to
H.R. 4657 Referred to
Would have required FERC environmental
consider greenhouse
Subcommittee
reviews under NEPA to consider
gas emissions related
greenhouse gas emissions from pipeline
to natural gas
construction and operation, and the
pipelines, and for
production, transportation, and
other purposes
combustion of the natural gas to be
transported through the pipeline.
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Interstate Natural Gas Pipeline Siting: FERC Policy and Issues for Congress

116th
Fairness for
H.R. 5454 Referred to
Would have prohibited or suspended the
Landowners Facing
Subcommittee
use of eminent domain under a FERC
Eminent Domain Act
pipeline permit under certain
circumstances. Would have prohibited the
use of eminent domain attached to any
facility that imports or exports natural gas.
116th
Scenic Trail Viewshed
H.R. 7878 Referred to
Would have allowed FERC to permit
Protection Act
Committee
pipelines crossing or impacting the view
from a national scenic trail only under
certain conditions.
Sources: http://www.congress.gov, CRS analysis.
Notes: FERC= Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, LNG= liquefied natural gas, NEPA = National
Environmental Policy Act, NGA = Natural Gas Act.

Author Information

Paul W. Parfomak

Specialist in Energy and Infrastructure Policy


Acknowledgments
Lynn J. Cunningham, Senior Research Librarian, helped prepare the legislative tables in this report.

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Congressional Research Service
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