FERC is out of gas without a quorum

For years, Marcellus and Utica natural gas transportation bottlenecks have seen producers crying for more takeaway capacity to move produced natural gas out of Appalachia. And just when they started to get some relief from FERC-approved pipeline projects, FERC ran out of gas—at least temporarily.

So far in 2017, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) certificated seven projects representing more than 7 Bcf/d of new pipeline capacity. In 2016, the commission certificated 17.6 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of new natural gas pipeline capacity. Pipeline certification involves reviewing applications for the construction and operation of natural gas pipelines and ensuring that applicants comply with safety standards. Receiving a certificate is just one step in the process of building and operating a new pipeline; and pipelines receiving certification in 2017 will not necessarily come online in 2017, according to a report by the EIA.

FERC had already certificated 7 pipelines in 2017

After Approving 7 Pipelines in 2017, FERC is Dead in the Water

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, IHS Markit

The seven projects certificated during the first few weeks of 2017 are concentrated in the eastern half of the United States and include more than 1,500 miles of natural gas pipeline construction and expansions, involving combined additions of more than 7 Bcf/d of capacity. The projects have projected 2017 and 2018 in-service dates.

Two large-capacity projects, the Rover Pipeline Project (and related projects) and the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline Project, were among those that received certificates in early 2017.

$4.2 billion Rover will move 3.3 Bcf/day from the Utica

The Rover pipeline will move natural gas out of the Utica shale play that spans parts of New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. According to Rover Pipeline LLC, the $4.2 billion project will have direct deliveries in Ohio; West Virginia; Michigan; and Ontario, Canada, and will reach a capacity of 3.3 Bcf/d. Construction will begin in the first quarter of 2017.

$2.6 billion Atlantic Sunrise expansion will transport Marcellus gas south

The Atlantic Sunrise pipeline will move natural gas out of the Marcellus shale play to markets in the mid-Atlantic and southeastern states. According to the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company, LLC, the $2.6 billion expansion will add 1.7 Bcf/d of pipeline capacity, and construction will begin in mid-2017.

Other recently certificated pipeline projects include the Orion ProjectTransco to Charleston ProjectRayne and Leach XpressNorthern Access, and Northern Lights 2017 Expansion.

53 pipeline projects await new FERC commissioner selection, appointment, Senate confirmation

As of February 23rd, 33 projects had FERC applications in process, and 20 projects had submitted FERC pre-filings, according to data from PointLogic Energy. But consideration of these projects and others will be deferred until FERC has at least the three commissioners required to constitute a quorum. Right now it has only two commissioners. The quorum disappeared in January after the resignation of FERC Chairman Norman Bay.

In the interim, President Trump named one of the two remaining FERC commissioners, Cheryl LaFleur, the commission’s acting chairman. Colette Honorable, is the only other remaining FERC commissioner.

According to a report by E&E News, more than 90 House members and a number of senators — as well as multiple energy, chemical and manufacturing trade groups — have warned of a crippling situation for FERC that could freeze pipeline, hydropower and other energy infrastructure projects.

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski said she believed the administration, although “drinking from a fire hose,” with many nominees to process, was aware of FERC’s precarious position, E&E reported. Murkowski has signaled a willingness to move two nominees in tandem through her committee for approval as a way to speed up the deliberations.

The Trump administration has been under increasing pressure to nominate a Republican chairman and two commissioners ever since the five-member panel was left with only two working members, E&E reported.

FERC’s two sitting commissioners

Acting Chairman Cheryl A. LaFleur

After Approving 7 Pipelines in 2017, FERC is Dead in the Water

FERC Acting Chairman, Cheryl A. LaFleur

FERC’s acting chairman, Cheryl A. LaFleur was first nominated by President Barack Obama to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2010 and was confirmed for a second term by the Senate in 2014. On January 23, 2017 she was appointed Acting Chairman by President Donald Trump. She was previously appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as Acting Chairman of the Commission from November 2013 to July 2014 and as Chairman from July 2014 until April 2015.

LaFleur’s priorities have included reliability and grid security, promoting regional transmission planning, and supporting a clean and diverse power supply, according to the FERC website. She is a member of the NARUC Committees on Electricity and Critical Infrastructure and was co-chair of the FERC/NARUC Forum on Reliability and the Environment. LaFleur served as executive vice president and acting CEO of National Grid USA, responsible for the delivery of electricity to 3.4 million customers in the Northeast. Her previous positions at National Grid USA and its predecessor New England Electric System included chief operating officer, president of the New England distribution companies and general counsel. LaFleur began her career as an attorney at Ropes and Gray in Boston. She has a J.D. from Harvard Law School.

Commissioner Colette D. Honorable

After Approving 7 Pipelines in 2017, FERC is Dead in the Water

FERC Commissioner Colette D. Honorable

Colette D. Honorable was nominated to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by President Barack Obama in August 2014, and unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate in December 2014 for a term that expires in June 2017. An attorney, Commissioner Honorable came to FERC from the Arkansas Public Service Commission, where she served since October 2007. Honorable oversaw an agency with jurisdiction over 450 utilities and approximate annual revenues of $5 billion. As past president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, she focused on pipeline safety, reliability, resilience, fuel diversity, and workforce development.

Honorable was chief of staff to then Arkansas Attorney General Mike Beebe and as a member of the governor’s cabinet as Executive Director of the Arkansas Workforce Investment Board. Honorable is a graduate of the University of Memphis and received a Juris Doctor from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock School of Law.

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