Many Americans may not realize it, but the oil and gas industry is one of the most closely regulated industries in the country. For example, pipelines undergo an extensive review process before receiving approval from a number of local, state, and federal regulators. They must meet rigorous standards outlined by regulatory bodies, conduct a public comment period, and address concerns and questions regarding the proposed project.
Despite these thorough procedures and careful approval process, critics have been quick to point fingers and claim corners were cut anytime an issue arises. Recently, Reuters published an article questioning the standards and procedures regarding the construction of two key pipelines in the Midwest: the Rover and Mariner East 2 Pipelines. The article alleges the construction schedules of these projects were “ambitious,” suggesting crews rushed through the process to get the pipeline into service. However, as quoted in the article, Energy Transfer, the developer of the two lines, stated the schedules were “appropriate for the size, scope, and the number of contractors hired.”
Take the Rover Pipeline, for example. It is now fully operational, having recently received approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The project went above and beyond when it comes to environmental and safety efforts. During Rover’s construction, more than 20,000 construction specialists in the construction industry such as electricians, welding technicians and various other specialized tradesman, worked across Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Michigan to ensure the safety of the community and the integrity of the project remained intact. As a result of diligent planning, Rover was able to avoid many tracts under this conservation easement, with approximately 80% of the pipeline paralleling existing infrastructure.
Energy developers and regulators make extensive efforts to get feedback from community members during the process, too. In FERC’s Final Environmental Impact Statement on Rover, the agency stated a Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement was distributed to 15,600 interested parties, including federal, state, and local government representatives and agencies; elected officials; environmental and public interest groups; Native American tribes; affected property owners; other interested parties; and local libraries and newspapers. Additionally, seven public comment meetings were held during spring of 2016 regarding the project, and more than 2,000 comments were received and addressed accordingly from landowners, public officials, non-governmental organizations, and government agencies regarding the project.
Energy Transfer, the developer of Rover, has reiterated their commitment to the safe and efficient operation of the pipeline. Industry experts have even argued that many energy companies are now avoiding projects that require federal permits all together in an effort to avoid drawn-out legal challenges, regulatory hurdles, and aggressive opposition from environmental activists. In order to bolster the industry and fuel the American economy, our policymakers must prioritize expanding our critical energy infrastructure and welcome investment in the energy industry.