National Infrastructure Week Highlights the Need for Upgrades in the U.S.

As the 6th annual National Infrastructure Week kicks off, U.S. businesses, workers, officials, and citizens are joining together to advocate for America’s future. Across the country nearly 400 affiliates will host events and educate policymakers on the importance of upgrading America’s infrastructure in order to grow the economy by relieving the stresses put on roads, bridges, airports, pipelines, and our wireless infrastructure.

According to the World Economic Forum the U.S. is ranked tenth in terms of infrastructure quality, lagging behind countries such as Japan, France, United Arab Emirates and South Korea. If we want to remain competitive on the world economic stage, we must prioritize critical infrastructure improvements.

In 2017 America’s infrastructure received a D+ on the American Society of Civil Engineers’ quadrennial Infrastructure Report Card. The study found that 28% of major urban roads are in substandard or poor condition, 2 out of every 5 miles of urban interstates in the U.S. are congested, and 1 out of every 5 miles of U.S. highway pavement is in poor condition.

Roads are just one example—investments are needed in our network of energy infrastructure as well. There are more than 2.5 million miles of petrochemical pipelines operating throughout the country, and more than two thirds of the population depends on this network to meet their everyday energy needs. As demand for these products, specifically natural gas, continues to increase, it’s becoming more vital that the infrastructure necessary to transport them safely is developed.

The GAIN Coalition is always paying close attention to the infrastructure issues that our country faces, but this week we are taking the opportunity to bring more stakeholders into the conversation and encourage investments that will allow us to propel forward, not lag behind.

The time to invest in our nation’s infrastructure is now. It’s #TimeToBuild.

Q&A on Bayou Bridge Pipeline from GAIN Tele-Town Hall

Pipeline Construction & Design

Q: Where does the pipeline start and stop?

A: (Chris Sonneborn, Senior VP Energy Transfer Partners) this project is originating in Lake Charles and running to St James. There is a crude oil terminal facility in St James and similar refineries and terminalling facilities in Lake Charles. We are connecting those two assets together with this pipeline.

Q: How will the pipeline affect the residential area?

A: (Chris Sonneborn, Senior VP Energy Transfer Partners) in terms of our construction techniques we’re going to be burying the pipe deeper, approximately 4 feet to the top of the pipe, through any kind of a residential area to minimize any risk that it could be struck during work going on in the area. The ongoing monitoring of the pipeline is also another means to make sure that it’s safe for the residents. The regulations are set up around the pipeline to ensure that we do have safe infrastructure development where there are residents nearby.

Q: What are the safety risk of these pipelines to residents of Louisiana?

A: (Brigham McCown, former head of Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) We do a lot of things at the federal government level, the agency that I used to head is responsible for overseeing all of the pipelines and the 500 to 600 people there plus people part of the state government take their job very seriously to regulate these pipelines. I have fined pipeline companies when I didn’t think they were doing enough in the past, but I’m happy to tell you that in the last 10 years even though pipeline leaks are very rare, they’re getting rarer and the rate of pipeline leaks is down by 50% just 10 years ago. A lot of that is actually due to something that I helped put in place when I was there and it’s called the 8-1-1 system and it’s the call before you dig. It’s very important because what we’re really finding now is that pipeline accidents occur when somebody hits the pipeline or digs up something without calling first. I can tell you that last year we shipped almost 15 billion barrels of crude oil and petroleum products and they have the best safety rating of any transportation system, they’re more than 99.999% safe. Spill volumes are very small and the regulations at the federal level require operators to have contingency plans in place, require them to clean up any spills that do occur and even in the past where there have been spills in other states there’s been no lasting impacts from those. I’m pretty proud of the safety record that pipelines have. You have less risk transporting oil through a pipeline than any of us probably have of getting in our car and driving around town today.

Q: What is being done to ensure there aren’t any leaks?

A: (Chris Sonneborn, Senior VP Energy Transfer Partners ) there’s a number of things that were done. First off the most important thing for me to emphasis is that is avoiding leaks in the first place. We have a comprehensive right of way monitoring program where we have weekly overflights of the entire right of way to ensure that there is no third party threats that are infringing upon the pipeline, along with the work that our operations personnel are doing up and down the pipeline to keep an eye on that. The second part of that is our integrity management of the pipeline itself which includes internal inspection of the line, monitoring it to ensure that we have the right kinds of cathodic protection on the pipeline to ensure that there’s no degradation of the steel itself. The third tier of that would be the pipeline control center that’s providing 24 hour monitoring of the pipeline with man personnel observing the pressures and flows across the pipeline and they’re assisted in that effort with a computational pipeline monitoring system, a fancy way of saying a computer that monitors the pressures and flows to ensure that everything is balancing out on the pipeline and that we have no loss of product on it.

Landowners

Q: What steps does the company make to ensure property owners are well informed?

A: (Chris Sonneborn, Senior VP Energy Transfer Partners ) The process if the pipeline is directly impacting the property that we go through we would initially contact the landowners to notify them that we are requesting to route the pipeline through a property that’s owned there and enter into negotiations with that family to provide compensation for placing the pipeline in that area.

Q: How are you ensuring you’ll restore the property that you cross?

A: (Chris Sonneborn, Senior VP Energy Transfer Partners ) depending on whether we’re talking about something that’s actually in the basin, our permit that allows us to work through the basin is going to require us to restore the right of way to the existing grade that’s present in the basin. That is something that we will be inspected and monitored for as we prosecute the project. In any kind of upland area we do restore everything to grade and reseed and monitor that to make sure there is no drainage issues or impact to the overall grade of soil especially in the cultivated areas.

Atchafalaya Basin

Q:  What about the water flow in the basin?

A: (Gary Freeman, Principal Hydrologist) there are some berms from the 60s that are out in the basin and some of those berms will be lowered. Those berms aren’t preventing water from flowing, it’s just flowing through different portions of the berm. In reality the BBP will not be impacting hydrology in anyway and there might be some minor benefits.

Q: What guarantee can you have that this will not affect the basin?

A: (Chris Sonneborn, Senior VP Energy Transfer Partners ) the construction methodology that’s being used is designed to ensure that this pipe is built above and beyond any of the current safety regulations that are required by law. The ongoing continuous monitoring of it is simply insurance to make sure that if any kind of event should occur would be responded to immediately and that cleanup efforts would be done to make sure anything was restored completely. We proactively are inspecting this pipeline and adding inline inspection tools and observations of the condition of the pipe itself, as well as sometimes adding chemicals to prevent internal corrosion. So there’s a lot of efforts that goes into maintaining the pipe, assessing its current condition and ensuring that it is stable and free of any corrosion and also making sure that there’s no third party risks. The location and depth of the pipe are key to ensuring that it is free of other threats.

Economic Impact

Q: How do residents near the Atchafalaya Basin benefit from this pipeline?

A: (Chris Sonneborn, Senior VP Energy Transfer Partners) there are a number of things that are going to be occurring that are going to benefit the local residents. During the actual construction we’re going to have as many as 2,500 construction workers along the right of way, they’ll be frequenting local businesses, staying in local motels, eating at restaurants, so there’s a direct benefit to the community there. In addition, the pipeline itself is going to paying property taxes once it goes into service. Those property taxes will also benefit the local communities. The last little bit was the acquisition of easements for the pipeline itself and the payments that have been made to the land owners, both for the right to install the pipeline across these properties and for crop damages where we were crossing through agricultural areas.

Q: Are the 600 jobs that the pipeline is bringing in long-term jobs and will they be local hires?

A: (Chris Sonneborn, Senior VP Energy Transfer Partners) the 600 employee number is a number that is going to be across the entire Energy Transfer family of partnerships working throughout Louisiana. Those are permanent jobs that will be present. Those include the Bayou Bridge Pipeline operations, as well as our other assets including the Lake Charles LNG facility and other assets that we operate across the state. Those are certainly local opportunities that will be available to Louisianians to apply for and engage with. We are excited to provide some additional opportunities in the state.

Crawfisherman

Q: How will craw fisherman catch fish with pipes in the way? How can the boats pass the pipelines?

A: (Gary Freeman, Principal Hydrologist) the pipeline will be buried and under the river boards, well underground so they’ll be out of the way and won’t be in anyone’s way. The craw fisherman will be able to pass right over the pipeline without noticing they’re there.

A: (Chris Sonneborn, Senior VP Energy Transfer Partners) the construction methodology itself we do have to dig a trench to install the pipe through, but that trench will be completely backfilled and the grade restored so there will not be any kind of obstruction for the craw fisherman to move through the basin. In addition the way that we end up installing the pipe is to put that trench in and then the pipe is usually pushed into the trench so there will not be a lot of construction equipment up and down that right of way during the actual installation of the pipe. We are using a lot of specialized equipment in order to minimize the amount of heavy traffic that we have to move through these sensitive environmental wetlands.

Other

Q: Why don’t we just move forward with renewable energy? It’s tested and proved in other parts of the country and there’s no danger in that.

A: (Major General James Spider Marks, President of the Marks Collaborative) the exploration, exploitation, delivery, and access to fossil fuels is a must, it has to continue. In parallel with that, and not exclusive of that, is the further development of renewables. Because we can take advantage of the fossil fuels that exist and meet the demands that we will continue to have for the next several decades we can and must at the same time continue to make advances in all of the renewables that are out there, but let’s not make advances on the renewables at the expense of fossil fuels which are essential for all of us to power our grids, turn on our engines, and exist in the society that we’ve created for ourselves. We really can do both and we are doing both.

A: (Chris Sonneborn, Senior VP Energy Transfer Partners) one of the things that I think gets frequently overlooked when we’re talking about the movement of fossil fuels is the barrel of oil that we move on this pipeline is not exclusively used for energy production but is actually a source material for all sorts of material that is used in our daily lives. The importance of that can’t really be overstated and some of those products go into the manufacturing of the solar panels themselves.

GAIN Tele-Town Hall: Bayou Bridge Pipeline Safety

At the end of March GAIN held two tele-town halls to discuss the Bayou Bridge Pipeline project. Communities along the path of the pipeline were invited to join in the conversation with industry experts, ETP officials, and GAIN advisers.

During the informative session, we learned more about the safety of the project.

One of the expert speakers was Brigham McCown, who formerly headed up the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. The federal agency is responsible for the safe and secure oversight of nearly 2 million shipments of energy products that happen every day in the U.S. by air, land, and sea, including nearly 2.6 million miles of pipeline.

Pipelines transport nearly 2/3 of all energy products, and the state of Louisiana already relies heavily on pipeline energy infrastructure. As Brigham had to say, of all methods available to transport products, he believes pipelines are the safest option.

“Because I was also responsible for shipments through truck, rail, and vessel I can say that these products will get to market and it’s our obligation to ensure that they get there the safest way possible and that in my opinion is by pipeline. There’s a reason that pipelines have been the preferred choice of transporting the lion’s share of our energy products and I think that’s because they are the safest and most ecologically sound way to do so.”

The United States relies heavily on hydrocarbon products. Throughout the country they are used to heat homes and power factories. Pipelines also deliver almost 100% of the gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel used each and every day. Brigham says we’re still going to be very dependent on fossil fuels for decades to come, and pipelines are the best way to make sure we do so while protecting the environment.

“When it comes to new pipelines opposing these new state of the art infrastructure projects does not help the environment, it actually undermines our environmental stewardship and simultaneously increase the cost we pay for this fuel.”

It is time for Louisiana to support this crucial infrastructure development.

Pruitt Condo Controversy Ignores the Pipeline Permitting Process

The ethics of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt have come into question recently, most notably the details surrounding his living arrangements in Washington, D.C. last year. While Pruitt was renting a condo owned by Vicki Hart, the wife of a friend of Pruitt’s, the EPA approved an expansion project on Enbridge’s Line 67 crude oil pipeline. The lobbying firm of Hart’s husband, Steven, lobbied for the project.

Speculation and rumors began swirling of favors being granted to the project because of Pruitt’s ties to the company. A New York Times article even cited a former government ethics official who said “entering into this arrangement causes a reasonable person to question the integrity of the E.P.A. decision.”

As InsideSources recently noted, there are a few key elements that continue to be left out in the coverage. First is that the EPA plays a very small role in signing off on pipeline projects. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is the agency in charge of evaluating whether a proposed interstate pipeline route should be approved. FERC then works with the EPA, USDOT Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, the Army Corps of Engineers, and local and state agencies.

Second, the coverage fails to adequately portray just how rigorous and extensive the federal pipeline permitting process is. Companies must first file a pre-filing request and notify state, local and federal agencies, and any property owners that may potentially be affected. The NEPA then begins determining the environmental issues the project could bring.

Next the company submits an application for a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity, which contains a detailed list of what the project is, the route, all construction plans, schedules, what other permits are required, environmental reports and mitigation plans, and alternative routes.

FERC reviews the information and assesses whether the project can move forward. A study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that the average processing time from pre-filing to certification was 558 days. And even after it has been authorized, those who object to the decision can request a rehearing within 30 days.

Enbridge Line 67 began the approval process more than five years ago, when an initial application was filed with the State Department in 2012. Then in 2017 President Donald Trump signed an executive order to advance two pipelines in the U.S. The Enbridge pipeline was later added to the list.

Line 67 has been operating since 2010. The expansion allows crude oil from Edmonton, Alberta to be sent through North Dakota and Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin.

To say that Pruitt’s connections are what spurred the advancement of the project is to completely overlook the facts of what exactly companies go through before approval. It is time to stop letting baseless lies sully the hard work that goes into getting these crucial infrastructure developments underway.

GAIN Holds Tele-Town Hall on Bayou Bridge Pipeline

Last week, GAIN held a tele town hall on the Bayou Bridge Pipeline. The call connected us with people in communities along the path of the pipeline to discuss, in-depth, the details the vital infrastructure project.

Experts in the field, ETP officials, and advisers to GAIN all took part in the event to answer questions from residents. The informational session helped to shed some light on how, where, and what exactly the Bayou Bridge Pipeline is.

Energy Transfer Partners’ Senior Vice President of Engineering Chris Sonneborn kicked off the event, detailing that safety is at the heart of all ETP projects.

As Chris says:

“Let me start off by stating that environmental stewardship is one of the core values here at ETP and it’s not just because it’s a good business practice but it is the right thing to do. In our planning of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline route, like all of our projects, we referred to our highly skilled engineers, environmental scientists and other experts to make sure that we followed the safest routes with the least environmental impact.”

ETP is dedicated to protecting the Atchafalaya Basin during the installation of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline. That’s why the company is using specialized equipment during construction. It’s also employing methods aimed at mitigating any impact on the basin, and restoring any areas that the pipeline encounters.

The company is also stepping up safety on all fronts, going above and beyond regulatory requirements. Inspectors were on site during pipe production and will continue to examine the construction throughout installation. The pipe is also 100% made in the United States, and of a higher standard than mandated.

As Chris says:

“Bayou Bridge is employing pipe with thicker walls than required by regulation that all public road, waterway and railroad crossings providing additional pipe strength beyond the minimum requirement. Also the pipe is being installed to a greater depth than required through residential, industrial, commercial and cultivated areas to provide additional protection for potential third party damage.”

Even after completion Chris says the pipeline will be monitored 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, proving an amazing dedication to Bayou Bridge Pipeline and the people of Louisiana.

Preliminary Injunction Against The Bayou Bridge Pipeline Overturned

In February U.S. District Court Judge Shelly Dick issued a preliminary injunction against the Bayou Bridge Pipeline, blocking construction on the project in the Atchafalaya Basin. Last week the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit overturned that ruling in a much welcomed move.

GAIN Legal Advisor Richard Epstein recently wrote a piece in Forbes analyzing the Fifth Circuit’s decision to stay the preliminary injunction. He argues that since there have been no issues during construction it is completely unnecessary to shut the project down.

“The environmental and economic benefits of the project to the nation as a whole outweigh any minor risks of not having the ideal mitigation program in place. To shut down this project at this stage would be to give undue weight to remote environmental issues and to ignore the palpable losses that stopping the project will have for both environmental and economic issues.”

GAIN applauds the decision to overturn Judge Dick’s ruling and hopes that there will be no further delays to impede construction on this crucial project.

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.