STATE OF NEW JERSEY
PRE-FILED FOR INTRODUCTION IN THE 2016 SESSION
Assemblywoman ELIZABETH MAHER MUOIO
District 15 (Hunterdon and Mercer)
Assemblyman REED GUSCIORA
District 15 (Hunterdon and Mercer)
Assemblyman DANIEL R. BENSON
District 14 (Mercer and Middlesex)
Urges President and Congress to revise laws concerning interstate natural gas pipeline approvals to more fully address adverse impacts.
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
Introduced Pending Technical Review by Legislative Counsel.
A Concurrent Resolution respectfully urging the President and Congress of the United States to change the laws concerning approvals of interstate natural gas pipelines so they better implement current energy policy considerations, require consideration of the cumulative impacts of the overall development of natural gas transmission infrastructure on a region, and require deference to certain competing State policy determinations.
Whereas, The regulatory regimes governing oil transportation and gas transportation differ radically from each other; and
Whereas, Proposed interstate natural gas pipelines are reviewed and permitted at the federal level by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”), while proposed interstate oil pipelines are reviewed and permitted almost exclusively at the state level; and
Whereas, The differences in regulation of the transportation of oil and gas arose in part because of the physical properties of each resource but also because each regulatory system developed in response to different political and economic times and remain in place today largely as a vestige of those early days; and
Whereas, Congress enacted the Natural Gas Act of 1938 to place the federal government in control of the siting of interstate natural gas pipelines to level the playing field between competing energy producing industries, and amended that act after World War II to put natural gas companies on the same footing as other power industries by providing natural gas pipeline companies with eminent domain authority; and
Whereas, Federal law’s preferential treatment for the natural gas pipeline industry may have been supported by public policy considerations at an earlier time, when natural gas was a new, cleaner source of energy, however, current policy considerations no longer support the industry’s preferred status, and impede the development of newer, cleaner sources of energy; and
Whereas, Recent technological innovations in the production of natural gas through hydraulic fracturing and directional drilling has resulted in a wave of applications to develop new interstate natural gas transmission pipelines; and
Whereas, Reports presented to Congress by advocates for the natural gas pipeline industry estimate the need to construct annually, every year through 2035, 1,400 miles of gas transmission pipeline in the United States and Canada; and
Whereas, The Marcellus and Utica shale fracking boom in the Northeast United States has spurred the proposal and construction of multiple pipelines to transport unconventional shale gas through New Jersey; and
Whereas, In New Jersey, local units of government, property owners, and other interested parties that are affected by proposed interstate natural gas pipelines have raised significant questions about the current processes for approving interstate natural gas pipelines, and have asserted that the current FERC approval process does not adequately balance competing policy considerations, adequately protect the State of New Jersey’s natural resources, or even adequately consider compelling State and local policy determinations; and
Whereas, New Jersey, which is among the most densely-populated states, and among the first states facing “build-out,” enacted laws establishing open space preservation and farmland preservation programs in order to dedicate land for those purposes in perpetuity, and have expended taxpayer funds in furtherance of those purposes, however, the FERC approval process allows for the location of interstate natural gas pipelines through irreplaceable preserved farms, forests, and environmentally sensitive areas, leading to the destruction of fragile habitat and the erosion of the public trust in these preservation programs; and
Whereas, Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), prior to approving a proposed pipeline, FERC is required to consider a wide range of potential environmental impacts, including the “cumulative impacts” of a project, those that result from a proposed pipeline project as well as past, present, and foreseeable projects which may be minor individually but collectively are significant, however, the United States Court of Appeals has held that FERC violated NEPA by segmenting its environmental review and failing to provide a meaningful analysis of the cumulative impacts of pipeline projects; and
Whereas, Although NEPA requires FERC to consider cumulative impacts of proposed natural gas pipelines, the FERC approval process individually considers the impact of each pipeline project, and at times, only a segment of a proposed pipeline, without considering the cumulative impacts of the total projected development of natural gas pipeline infrastructure, according to natural gas industry estimates, within a region or a State; and
Whereas, Since FERC’s current process of reviewing each proposed interstate natural gas pipeline project individually does not allow for a consideration of the true cumulative impacts of the development of pipeline infrastructure throughout a region over time, it is respectfully urged that Congress enact legislation requiring FERC: to use comprehensive data and planning tools to determine if new transmission capacity is needed; to develop and undertake regional programmatic environmental impact statements that consider a full range of alternatives and mitigation measures and provide FERC information to evaluate potential cumulative impacts of the reasonably foreseeable actions of pipelines that may be proposed for development across a region; and to consider all cumulative impacts and indirect effects of prospective pipeline proposals on a region; and
Whereas, Although Federal law currently provides that in order for FERC to approve a proposed natural gas pipeline project, FERC must find that the project is in the public interest, and that, overall, the benefits of the project outweigh the adverse impacts, unfortunately, the FERC approval process has become a rubber stamp approval for the natural gas industry; and
Whereas, the General Assembly and the Senate of the State of New Jersey express their dire concern that the current federal laws which govern the approval of interstate natural gas pipelines have devolved to an automatic approval process, aggrandizing the wealth of those who wish to pump natural gas from the earth before environmental costs are fully understood, and proper controls put into place, and contrary to good public policy of federal, state, and local entities, as well as those of private property owners; now, therefore,
Be It Resolved by the General Assembly of the State of New Jersey (the Senate concurring):
1. The President and Congress of the United States are respectfully urged to undertake a comprehensive reassessment of the federal laws governing FERC approval of interstate natural gas pipelines, and to amend or revise those laws, in order to ensure they: are consistent with a national energy policy which includes an increased emphasis on renewable energy; require consideration of the cumulative impacts of the overall development of natural gas transmission infrastructure on a region; and require deference to certain competing state policy determinations, particularly, state laws which require the preservation of property dedicated for open space and agricultural purposes.
2. Copies of this resolution, as filed with the Secretary of State, shall be transmitted by the Clerk of the General Assembly or the Secretary of the Senate to the President of the United States, the President of the United States Senate, the Senate Majority Leader, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, and each member of Congress from the State of New Jersey.
This concurrent resolution urges the President and the United States Congress to revise the laws governing the approval of interstate natural gas pipelines in order to better consider and address adverse impacts associated with the development and expansion of pipelines.