Bill would speed up cross-border energy import/export projects

From Construction Dive

John Hoeven, a Republican senator from North Dakota, introduced on June 12 a bill that would speed up U.S. energy infrastructure projects that cross the Canadian and Mexican borders, according to The Ripon Advance.

The North American Energy Infrastructure Act would make the process of gaining approval for the construction, operation and maintenance of electric, oil and gas infrastructure projects more transparent, standardized and up-to-date.

The legislation would do away with the Presidential Permit requirement for these types of projects and would hand over the responsibility for permitting and other related decisions to the appropriate federal agencies. Environmental reviews would still be required. Contractors for these infrastructure projects would still have to comply with state construction laws and regulations.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which already handles cross-border gas pipeline projects, would assume control of cross-border oil pipelines as well. Under Hoeven’s proposed legislation and after a National Environmental Policy Act review, the commission and the Department of Energy, which has authority over cross-border electrical transmission projects, would have 90 days to either issue a certificate of crossing or deny approval.

The U.S. Department of State currently is the decision-maker when it comes to cross-border pipeline projects, as well as bridges, tunnels and other necessary infrastructure between the U.S. and Canada and between the U.S. and Mexico. As part of the agency’s approval process, it determines if the project is in the country’s national interest by gauging how it will affect foreign policy, security, safety, the environment, the economy and compliance with U.S. law.

More controversial is the wall that is under construction along the U.S.-Mexico border. The administration has waived the requirement to comply with the standard environmental laws for at least two segments of the wall in an effort to speed up the construction, a move which sparked legal action against the Department of Homeland Security. A U.S. District Court judge threw out those complaints, paving the way for construction to continue.

Unlike the federal government, contractors participating in wall construction have not been able to avoid the repercussions of negative public opinion. Some municipalities have decided to either stop doing business with wall contractors or require them to disclose any bidding or construction relationship with the project. The city of Austin, Texas, has prohibited those working on the wall from participating in any city projects, and Los Angeles now mandates that all of their contractors reveal any connection to the border wall.

Full text of S.3056 may be read in PDF format here.

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