U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

Proof that the Army Corps Pipeline Permitting Process is Sound

By Matthew Koch

We’ve been very frustrated with the continued attempts by the Obama Administration on its way out of Washington to halt critical energy opportunities. That includes blatant political interference to delay a permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline that the U.S.  Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corp) had already approved.

Given that back drop, we feared the worst when the Army Corps set about to reissue its nationwide permit procedures necessary for work in streams, wetlands and other waters of the United States, which includes oil and gas pipeline construction permits. However, it turns out that the process is so unassailable that even this Administration couldn’t meddle with it. 

The Corps Nationwide Permit (NWP) procedures create a streamlined authorization process ("general permit") for construction projects deemed to have minimal environmental impacts to waterways, with the goal of protecting the environment while reducing administrative burdens and delays.  

Highlighted by the Dakota Access pipeline protest, pipeline protestors and the anti-fossil energy "keep it in the ground" movement called on the Army Corps to abandon the long established NWP program and expand the Army Corps role in regulating oil and gas pipelines in their effort to slow and stop pipeline and other energy infrastructure projects.

Instead, the Army Corps is sticking with its process to review utility line and oil and gas pipeline construction projects “limited to regulating discharges of dredged or fill material into waters of the U.S. and structures or work in navigable waters of the U.S.” The Army Corps stated, “We do not have the authority to regulate the operation of oil and gas pipelines.” State and federal agencies, including the Department of Transportation, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and the Environmental Protection Agency maintain regulatory jurisdiction over other aspects of pipeline operation, safety, and construction.

As a result, environmentalists are upset. They shouldn’t be. The NWP process ensures appropriate engagement by stakeholders and ensures a thorough review of all projects before they are permitted, and leaves other aspects of the permitting process to other agencies.

What environmentalists really want is a process that allows them to delay projects indefinitely, which will prevent critical energy infrastructure from being built. That will harm consumers, businesses and families.  

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