Sean Hackbarth Sean Hackbarth
Senior Editor, Digital Content, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


May 09, 2017


We could soon see a break in the logjam of pipeline projects waiting for federal approval.

President Donald Trump nominated two people to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Trump plans to nominate Neil Chatterjee, a senior energy adviser to McConnell who previously worked for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, and Robert Powelson, a member of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, for terms expiring in 2021 and 2020, respectively, an emailed statement from the White House late Monday shows.

Currently FERC is down to two people on the commission. This is below its quorum of three, leaving it unable to sign off on new pipeline construction projects.

Bloomberg reported this is delaying $50 billion in energy infrastructure investment:

At least a half-dozen pipelines valued at $12 billion face imminent delays, while projects valued at $38 billion are slogging through an approval process that’s slow in the best of times. An additional $25 billion of proposed developments just beginning the application process also could be slowed if the situation persists late into the year.

FERC nominees will appear in front of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee before confirmation votes in the Senate.

Needless to say, pro-energy folks are happy with President Trump’s nominees and hope for speedy confirmations.

“Given the complexity and importance of the issues before the Commission, President Trump made phenomenal picks in Commissioner Powelson and Neil Chatterjee, said Christopher Guith, Senior Vice President at the US Chamber's Institute for 21st Century Energy. “From strained competitive markets to crucial energy infrastructure, FERC faces many challenges, and these nominees will help move America toward a more secure energy future."

As energy companies continue to innovate, invest, and produce more U.S. energy, more energy infrastructure will be needed. One study found that over $1 trillion in new energy infrastructure investment was possible through 2035. That will support a lot of manufacturing and construction jobs—along with energy jobs—directly and power the new jobs created by a growing economy in the years ahead.

While a fully-functioning FERC will alleviate the bottleneck at the federal level, it must be noted that needed energy infrastructure projects are being unnecessarily impeded at the state level .

Take New York State.

An Institute for 21st Century Energy report finds in the Northeast region, residents pays 29% more for natural gas and 44% more for electricity than the national average, while factories pay 62% more for electricity. This is despite the fact that large natural gas reserves are nearby and in New York State where fracking is banned.

Given this situation, Governor Andrew Cuomo has made some bad decisions, as the New York Posteditorial board recently noted:

The gov blocked the Northern Access project this month and the Constitution pipeline last year, claiming threats to water quality. But these projects would’ve been as safe as (or safer than) countless other water-crossing projects that got approval — and caused no problems — over the years.

There’s a big price tag for obstruction. The Energy Institute report finds that if natural gas pipelines are prevented from being built, New York State alone by 2020 will lose out on 17,400 jobs, $1.6 billion in GDP, and $971 million in labor income.

What if pipelines aren't built in New York State?

Source: Institute for 21st Century Energy.

Whether it’s at the federal or state levels, a well-functioning, non-politicized pipeline permitting process will help businesses and households get the energy they need.

About the authors

Sean Hackbarth

Sean Hackbarth

Sean writes about public policies affecting businesses including energy, health care, and regulations. When not battling those making it harder for free enterprise to succeed, he raves about all things Wisconsin (his home state) and religiously follows the Green Bay Packers.

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