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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and a bipartisan group of senators today reintroduced the Natural Gas Gathering Enhancement Act. The legislation would set deadlines for and expedite the permitting of natural gas gathering lines located on federal land and Indian land. Other lead sponsors include U.S. Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.).

The legislation was first introduced last March, and is also included in the North American Energy Security Act, legislation Hoeven introduced with Senators Barrasso, Energy Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and John McCain (R-Ariz.).

The siting of natural gas gathering lines is an especially difficult challenge in states with large amounts of federal land and Indian land. Significant delays in obtaining rights-of-way from the Department of the Interior contribute to unnecessary venting and flaring from oil and gas wells whether or not the wells are located on federal land and Indian land.

“Legislation like this demonstrates that we can produce more energy with better environmental stewardship by empowering states and tribes to develop their energy resources,” Hoeven said. “Our bill expedites the permitting of natural gas gathering lines needed to capture gas that would otherwise be flared, helping us to create jobs and energy while reducing emissions.

The Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, has stated that the Department will soon issue new regulations on the venting and flaring of natural gas as part of President Obama’s Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions. However, the President’s Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions does not include any steps to end the delays in obtaining rights-of-way for natural gas gathering lines on federal land and Indian land.

Natural gas gathering lines are pipelines that ship unprocessed natural gas from oil and gas wells to natural gas processing plants which separate the gasses (e.g., methane, ethane, propane) from one another. Once processed, the various gases are shipped along interstate or intrastate natural gas pipelines to market.

Background:

The Natural Gas Gathering Enhancement Act would help reduce flaring by making it easier to site natural gas gathering lines across federal land and Indian land.

The bill would, among other things:

  • Eliminate duplicative environmental reviews for natural gas gathering lines that are adjacent to or within an existing disturbed area or existing right-of-way corridor on federal land and Indian land;
  • Require the Secretary of the Interior to issue rights-of-way for natural gas gathering lines on federal land within 90 days unless the Secretary finds the right-of-way would violate the Endangered Species Act or the National Historic Preservation Act; and
  • Require the Secretary of the Interior, in consultation with states and Indian tribes, to report annually to Congress on the progress made in expediting natural gas gathering lines on federal land and Indian land and to identify obstacles impeding that progress.

The bill explicitly states that it would not affect laws requiring the consent of Indian tribes or individual Indians prior to the issuance of rights-of-way on Indian land. The bill also states that it would not affect the National Historic Preservation Act.