GAIN Legal Advisor: “Complete the Bayou Bridge Pipeline Now”

In February U.S. District Court Judge Shelly Dick issued a preliminary injunction against the Bayou Bridge Pipeline. The ruling, which halted construction in the Atchafalaya Basin, ignores the hard work by federal, state and local officials as well as Bayou Bridge to safeguard the local communities and Louisiana’s environmental resources.

GAIN Legal Advisor Richard Epstein recently wrote a legal analysis of the case filings in Forbes weighing the merits Judge Dick’s decision. He argues that if the ruling is allowed to stand it will only increase the risk of environmental degradation in the Atchafalaya Basin.

Epstein’s first issue is the proposed pipeline extension was never challenged by the plaintiffs until after it was approved. Secondly the complaint made by the plaintiffs completely ignores the major benefits of the project. Finally he said Judge Dick’s ruling was a gross miscalculation.

As he writes:

“The entire tenor of these remarks ignores how BBP can operate more cheaply and safely than its rivals, thereby lowering both cost of shipment and environmental risks. These statements also ignore the obvious possibility of increased demand for the shipment of fossil fuels for both domestic and foreign consumption, which could not be satisfied by current facilities.”

GAIN is looking forward to a speedy resolution of this issue so that the project can proceed without any further, and unwarranted delay.

House Natural Resources Committee Oversight Hearing on “Liquefied Natural Gas and U.S. Geopolitics”

The United States is expected to set a record level for natural gas production in 2018 according to the Energy Information Administration. But in order for the U.S. to be a global leader of liquefied natural gas (LNG) we need sustained investment to support the expected production growth.

Meg Gentle, President of Tellurian, recently testified in front of the House Natural Resources Committee to discuss the complex geopolitics of natural gas development and delivery. Gentle pointed out that the changing LNG market could have transformative effects on the economy, but is at risk of being left behind without adequate pipeline and LNG infrastructure.

“Our team at Tellurian can support U.S. geopolitical goals by offering low-cost gas supply and flexible terms, but even our plans to invest $29 billion in American infrastructure are insufficient to meet this growing challenge. With more investment in American energy infrastructure, the United States is uniquely positioned to support global energy security and air quality through a leadership position in LNG markets for decades.”

Exporting LNGs in the U.S. creates thousands of jobs, spurs economic growth, and gets us closer to energy independence. It is time the U.S. takes the lead in global energy production. The GAIN coalition commends Ms. Gentle for bringing this issue to the attention of Members of Congress. We sincerely hope to see this translate into greater action to support investments in energy infrastructure.

New Infrastructure Plan Committed To Helping Rural America

With the official introduction of President Trump’s new infrastructure plan, America is at the beginning of massive investment and overhaul that will repair and improve the current state of our nation’s infrastructure. President Trump’s plan will commit $200 billion in federal funding for infrastructure projects, catalyzing upwards of $1.5 trillion in total infrastructure investment across the country. And, importantly, the President’s plan will emphasize infrastructure in our rural communities.

A quarter of the new federal infrastructure funding – $50 billion – has been committed to “modernizing and repairing the vital infrastructure of rural America.” This is long overdue, as our rural communities are often left behind when it comes to infrastructure. Improving simple things like roads and bridges, as well as providing access to high speed internet, are of true importance to our communities, and our country.

As Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue wrote,

“In my nine months in office, I have traveled to 33 states, including Iowa, taking a hard look at the challenges and opportunities in rural communities and hearing from rural citizens. At every stop, I heard about the dire need to expand broadband access, rebuild aging roads and bridges, provide clean water, and supply affordable, reliable power.

Specifically, I heard from people in agricultural communities who could use better transportation for moving American farmers and ranchers’ amazing bounty and enhancing access to their suppliers and customers, both domestically and internationally. Only with reliable and efficient infrastructure can rural America’s bounty be brought to market at home and abroad.”

Ensuring that our rural communities have that “reliable and efficient infrastructure” is a surefire way to both improve our communities and improve our country. The GAIN coalition strongly supports lifting up our rural infrastructure, as doing so will have positive ripple effects throughout our country, and throughout our economy.

54,000 American Bridges Deemed “Structurally Deficient”

America’s Interstate Highway System (IHS) connects our country from coast to coast, allowing for incredible travel and unparalleled trade to occur within our borders. No industry relies more on the IHS than our heavy truck traffic, and our IHS carries 75% of the nation’s heavy truck traffic.

Unfortunately, key parts of our infrastructure have been overlooked for decades, and now one in three bridges along the IHS have been identified as being in need of repairs. Out of the United States’ 226,837 bridges that equals more than 54,000 bridges along the IHS that were recently rated as “structurally deficient,” according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association.

This is a clear and palpable problem – our infrastructure is crumbling across the country, and the American Society of Civil Engineers even gave the United States infrastructure a D+. That is simply unacceptable for a nation like ours, and it clearly warrants increased attention and hardened focus from citizens and lawmakers alike. And there’s good news and bad news, on that front.

Bad news: Risk Management magazine reported 2017 that the U.S. spends just 2.5% of its gross domestic product on infrastructure, while the American Society of Civil Engineers estimated that the gap between planned infrastructure investment and America’s true infrastructure needs could end up exceeding $2.1 trillion, with the largest gaps occurring in transportation, schools, electric utilities, and water/wastewater systems.

Good news: President Donald Trump is set to make the commitment necessary to fixing our infrastructure. In his first State of the Union on January 30th, President Trump called “on the Congress to produce a bill that generates at least $1.5 trillion for the new infrastructure investment we need.” HE noted that the best way to go about funding our infrastructure is to leverage Federal dollars by “partnering with state and local governments and, where appropriate, tapping into private sector investment—to permanently fix the infrastructure deficit.”

Bringing a more concentrated focus on fixing and improving our nation’s infrastructure is a necessary step for us to maintain our economic dominance on a global scale. The GAIN coalition is excited for Congress to move forward with this incredible infrastructure bill, and to help repair the 54,000 structurally deficient bridges. Now is when we need to take responsibility, to follow through on a promise of smooth roads, sturdy bridges, and a system of American infrastructure that is the envy of the world.

Colorado Most Recent State Committing To Rural Broadband Expansion

With access to high speed, reliable internet you have the world at your fingertips. A few taps and clicks and any question you have can be answered. Businesses can reach greater markets online; students have access to unprecedented academic resources. Reliable, high speed internet has quickly become engrained in everyday life, and it should be thought about as a vital part of existence, something that ought to be provided to every single person across our great nation.

Colorado’s Senate recently voted to approve a bill that will expedite the cionstruction of high-speed internet service in rural areas throughout the state. As we’ve written previously, America’s rural communities often have the worst coverage when it comes to high speed internet, and that has a tremendously negative impact on livelihoods and economies. Colorado has taken a great step in remedying this issue, and ensuring that all Americans are afforded the same

Colorado follows the example set by a number of other states and organizations, with New York and Alaska both committing to bringing high speed internet to their citizens. Microsoft announced last July that they had plans to partner with telecommunications companies to bring broadband access to 2 million Americans. And just last month, a  group of community leaders, rural advocates, and top innovators launched the Connect Americans Now group in to work towards providing broadband connectivity in every market in the country.

The GAIN coalition is thrilled to see another State come forward in support of bringing this important part of modern life to more and more Americans. Ensuring that our rural communities have access to the internet will help small businesses grow and thrive, provide our students with the resources they need for their studies, and simply improve quality of life for millions of American citizens.

Our Infrastructure Can’t Wait Any Longer

It’s time to fix America’s infrastructure. With President Trump stepping in front of Congress and committing to a $1.5 trillion investment in revitalizing American infrastructure, the path forward has never been clearer.  We’ve let our roads and bridges slip, our energy grid and infrastructure are crumbling, and scores of Americans are unable to access high speed internet. We have the capacity, the public desire, and the support in Washington to move forward with significant reforms.

And fixing our infrastructure will have effects more widespread than simply shortening commutes or fixing potholes. America loses tremendous amounts of money every year as a result of our decaying infrastructure. Making a large scale investment will reap rewards far exceeding what we put in, and those economic benefits will impact every single American as construction projects create jobs, bring boosts to economies, and help the United States from coast to coast.

As William Mills, President of the American Public Works Association, wrote for The Hill:

“If another year passes without long-term commitment to appropriately funding, operating and maintaining our infrastructure systems, America will continue to dig a deeper hole and fall economically behind and be unable to safeguard the nation’s high standard of living. By investing in infrastructure, we gain improved safety, congestion relief, environmental protection, job creation and a more competitive economy.”

The GAIN coalition is excited to see what comes next, as President Trump’s massive infrastructure revitalization package moves through Washington, and gets out to the American people. Investing in our infrastructure is investing in America, and the time has never been better to make this commitment and make American infrastructure the envy of the world.

CBS Off-Base On Mariner East 2 Pipeline

Earlier this morning, CBS News ran a segment on the Mariner East 2 Pipeline in Pennsylvania. Mariner East 2 runs more than 350 miles across the state, and will transport important natural gas liquids once complete. The CBS story focused on a handful of local residents who express grave concerns about the pipeline operating so close to their homes, painting a scary and inaccurate portrait of this vital piece of America’s energy infrastructure.

In a five-and-a-half-minute segment that aired nationwide, CBS gave less than thirty seconds to the safety standards to which all pipelines must adhere – only going so far as to read a statement from the Pipeline’s developer, Sunoco.

While it’s true that Mariner East 2 has gone through rigorous safety examinations over the past five years during the application and permitting processes, this information fails to paint a full picture of the tremendous safety precautions that have been taken. It’s important to understand what is being done in order to ensure that our natural resources are moved in the safest, most responsible way possible.

During the construction process, miles and miles of pipe need to be welded together before being placed into the ground. Each of these welds, every single one along the entire line, is inspected by an independent third party. The welds are inspected both visually and through x-rays to ensure that they have been properly completed. This is on top of the tremendous, above and beyond safety efforts already made by Sunoco to guarantee safe construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline.

Once construction of the pipeline is complete, before a single drop of natural gas moves through the line, it is tested under more strenuous circumstances than it will experience during operation. The capacity is tested at 125% of the pressure that the pipe will experience on a day to day basis, further guaranteeing the structural integrity of our energy infrastructure.

Finally, once the pipe has been welded, tested, and laid into the ground, there are additional safety regulations and precautions put in place. All along the pipeline route, Mariner East 2 will have “Emergency Flow Restriction Devices,” an additional safety net to protect against leaks and spills. Not only do these devices give the ability to control the pipeline remotely from a control center, but they are also able to detect pressure changes along the pipe and shutdown the flow immediately.

This project is benefitting Pennsylvanians today. The project already employs thousands of trained, highly skilled union tradesman that call Pennsylvania home. It also provides local Pennsylvanian’s with increased access to affordable energy products such as propane, which many Pennsylvanian’s depend on for home heat in the winter. Mariner East also has an agreement to provide ethane to General Electric’s Competitive Power Venture’s Fairview electric generating plant in Cambria County, which will provide power to 1 million homes.

Everyone involved with the Mariner East 2 pipeline shares the same goal: safe construction of the project.  For now, construction is on hold as negotiations between the pipeline developer and regulators continue.  In the meantime, thousands are left without work.  Show your support for the project by tweeting the hashtag #me2back2work – showing your support for the laborers waiting to get back to work safely building the Mariner East 2 pipeline.

These incredible measures taken to ensure the safety of the Mariner East 2 Pipeline all pile on top of the simple fact that pipelines are by far the safest means for transporting these natural resources. Moving natural gas by truck or train would be the next alternative, which have proven to be far riskier than a natural gas pipeline. CBS failed to paint the full picture when it comes to the safety of our nation’s energy infrastructure, as understanding the facts in a debate is more important than anything else. The GAIN coalition stands behind the Mariner East 2 Pipeline, and we’re proud to see the continued commitment to setting the bar for safety higher and higher.

FCC Chairman Announces $500 Million Rural Broadband Investment

According to reports from 2016, more than a third of America’s rural citizens don’t have access to broadband internet. This puts communities at a stark disadvantage, reducing businesses’ ability to access greater markets through online portals, and restricting the education of our youth. The internet is a tremendous tool, and it’s vitally important that every American has high speed access to it.

The GAIN coalition has previously expressed our support for expanding rural access to broadband internet, and we’re thrilled to see the FCC take strong action to do exactly that.

“We need more deployment in sparsely populated rural areas if we’re going to extend digital opportunity to all Americans,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement. “But I’ve heard from community leaders, Congress and carriers that insufficient, unpredictable funding has kept them from reaching this goal. With the $500 million in new funding provided by this order, we’ll boost broadband deployment in rural America and put our high-cost system on a more efficient path, helping to ensure that every American can benefit from the digital revolution.”

This, in tandem with the great efforts already being made by the private sector, propel us down the path towards universal access to high speed internet across the country. The GAIN coalition is excited for these projects to move forward, and we’re glad to see such a strong commitment across the board to improving our nation’s infrastructure.

Congressional Caucus Releases Report On Future Infrastructure Plan

Earlier this week, the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus released a report, put together by their Infrastructure Working Group, laying out in detail suggestions for future infrastructure policies. This report comes as talk in Washington is heating up around a major infrastructure bill, which the White House is expected to unveil later this month.

“Unfortunately, due to years of underinvestment and deferred maintenance, America is no longer keeping pace and continues to fall behind other countries,” the report says. “By some estimates, the funding gap may be as high as $2 trillion by 2025 across all sectors of American infrastructure.”

The report makes a number of suggestions for ensuring that all areas of the United States are able to receive the funding that they need in order to repair and improve their infrastructure. One such suggestion is “creating ‘a rural liaison’ for various federal agencies to help those areas seek funding,” which would greatly improve the chances of our overlooked rural communities improving their infrastructure, or expanding access to high speed internet.

The suggestions from the Problem Solvers Caucus lay out some important ideas and policies for any potential infrastructure bill that makes its way through Congress, and the report serves as an example of the continued and consistent progress that lawmakers in Washington are making towards overhauling and improving our crumbling infrastructure.