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  • Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act

    by Representative Niki Tsongas

    Posted on 2015-01-21

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    TSONGAS. Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for yielding.

    I rise today in strong opposition to H.R. 161, the so-called Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act.

    My home State of Massachusetts, like many areas around the country, faces serious energy challenges. We need careful and strategic long- term planning in order to lower energy prices and increase reliability. Increasing access to additional sources of natural gas could help address some of New England's energy challenges, including energy prices, which have historically been above the national average.

    However, this legislation would move us in the wrong direction. This bill would force FERC to rush decisionmaking, including environmental reviews and assessments of the need for natural gas, while also hobbling decisions regarding the appropriate size of the proposed pipeline. It would turn FERC into a superpermitting agency, an authority that FERC neither wants nor has the expertise to carry out.

    In my home district, we are currently navigating the FERC process that this bill purports to improve. The company is proposing to build a new 250-mile natural gas pipeline that crosses three States, including seven communities that I represent. I have heard from hundreds of my constituents expressing their concerns with this project.

    Construction of the pipeline could jeopardize local wildlife and will impact both State and federally designated conservation lands, as well as Massachusetts' scarce farmland.

    Thanks to extensive public review and input, the pipeline route has already been adjusted to minimize some of the environmental impacts, but there are still many outstanding concerns that deserve careful scrutiny. The proposed route still passes through local farmland, parks, wildlife management areas, wetlands, near schools, and across drinking water supplies.

    My constituents have been grateful for a process that has given them the time to provide input. This bill would short-circuit that process and shortchange my constituents' right to be heard.

    I proposed an amendment to this legislation with my colleague Mr. McGovern that would exempt any pipeline from the arbitrary timelines established in the bill if the proposed route crosses Federal, State, or local land designated for conservation or recreation. However, the majority blocked this simple amendment from coming to the floor and receiving an up-or-down vote.

    In Massachusetts, we have a longstanding history of preserving national habitats and protecting open spaces for the public benefit, and we have invested significant public resources towards these goals. Members should have been given the opportunity to vote on whether or not we should allow for a thorough review process to protect State investments.

    On behalf of my constituents, I ask my colleagues to oppose this legislation.

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