Congressman Kevin Cramer

Representing North Dakota, At Large

CRAMER: Energy Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Energy Infrastructure and Hydropower Modernization

May 3, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON D.C. – Congressman Kevin Cramer participated in a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy hearing today entitled “Legislation Addressing Pipeline and Hydropower Infrastructure Modernization.”

The hearing examined 10 bills aimed at promoting and modernizing the nation’s hydropower and pipeline infrastructure, a goal Congress hopes to achieve during the 115th Congress. During the hearing, Cramer questioned witnesses on best practices to help harmonize coordination between multiple federal agencies.

The Promoting Interagency Coordination for Review of Natural Gas Pipelines Act, which streamlines the federal permitting process for pipelines, was discussed at-length, and could positively impact investment of natural gas pipeline projects in North Dakota and across the country. Natural gas is a valuable commodity produced in conjunction with crude oil production in Western North Dakota. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, North Dakota ranks 12th in the nation in natural gas production.

While North Dakota already has several existing interstate natural gas pipelines, there is continued interest for new pipelines to be built. However, the process for seeking federal approval of pipeline infrastructure can be sluggish and burdensome. Multiple permits are required for a natural gas pipeline project, including permits under the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and Clean Air Act. With different agencies working on different aspects of the same pipeline project, permit approval can take months due to lack of coordination and insufficient resources. As the lead agency in charge of interstate pipeline permitting, the Promoting Interagency Coordination for Review of Natural Gas Pipelines Act would reinforce the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) role as the lead agency for siting interstate natural gas pipelines by directing FERC to identify and invite all agencies considering an aspect of an application, to establish a schedule for concurrent reviews, and to impose deadlines for final decisions. It also adopts an issue identification and resolution process to resolve any issues of concern as early as possible.

“The Federal Government needs to do a better job working alongside state, tribal and local governments, as well as pipeline companies – their success is our success,” said Cramer. “Developing a more collaborative system for federal permitting means more jobs, more economic growth, a more prosperous North Dakota, and more national and energy security. Through pilot projects, we have seen such inter-agency collaboration between Federal agencies take place with strong results. If we can incentivize federal agencies to harmonize their permitting processes with fellow agencies, I believe we can develop synergies that will not only streamline the permitting process for companies, but also strengthen the overall environmental assessment for infrastructure projects.”  

During the hearing, Cramer also discussed the Promoting Cross-Border Energy Infrastructure Act, which replaces the Presidential Permit process, established through Executive Order, with a uniform and transparent process to authorize the construction, connection, operation, and maintenance of new international border-crossing facilities for the import and export of oil and natural gas and the transmission of electricity.

“It goes without saying, but the experts on the ground – who handle the permitting of infrastructure every day – are best equipped to make these decision and are already required by law to analyze whether infrastructure is environmentally safe and in the country’s national interest. We should do our best to prevent politics from getting in the way of getting the job done, such as was the case with Keystone XL Pipeline under the Obama Administration,” said Cramer.

In recent years, largely within the context of the Obama Administration’s consideration of the Presidential Permit application for the Keystone XL pipeline project, Congress has acted on multiple occasions to influence the process for reviewing cross-border energy infrastructure. As co-chair of the Northern Border Caucus and member of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group, Congressman Cramer has long advocated an integrated North American energy market to increase national security and benefit American consumers and producers.

Members also discussed legislative items to update our nation’s policies on hydropower including the Promoting Hydropower Development at Existing Non-Powered Dams Act and the Hydropower Policy Modernization Act of 2017. In 2015, hydropower accounted for about 6 percent of total U.S. electricity generation and 46 percent of electricity generation from renewables. There is tremendous opportunity to expand hydropower production. Less than three percent of the dams in the U.S. – approximately 2,200 dams – produce electricity.

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