How the FERC risks a free-for-all in cases for gas facility authorization.
By final rule, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has adopted a new optional process for applicants seeking a pipeline certificate or gas import/export authority under the Natural Gas Act to construct, operate or abandon a jurisdictional facility.[Fn.1] It's known as the Pre-Filing Collaborative Process, or PFCP, but it means trouble.
In seeking to speed up administrative review, the FERC has only invited delay. By embracing this new process, the FERC in effect has set down the cup to reach for the quart.
Ostensibly, the PFCP draws a focus on environmental issues. Yet it invites delay because it leaves the door wide open to all parties to advance other issues as well. Participants whose competitive or otherwise contentious interests so require can clutter PFCPs with nonenvironmental issues, delaying them and causing applicants to avoid them altogether. Instead, the FERC should limit PFCPs only to environmental concerns.
Of course, the FERC is aware that the review process under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) consumes more time than any other step in pipeline certificate cases. Thus, it encourages a preliminary analysis and resolution of environmental issues through PFCPs earlier than would occur otherwise. With the PFCP, the NEPA process can begin before the application is filed, and end after such filing. A successful PFCP, says the FERC, should produce a preliminary draft NEPA document (an Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement) to accompany an applicant's subsequent NGA filing. (Without the PFCP, the NEPA process normally begins only after the pipeline has filed its NGA application.)