Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, is the agency that regulates the interstate transmission of natural gas, oil, and electricity. It also licenses, inspects and oversees environmental matters for hydroelectric projects and major electricity policy initiatives.
FERC implements laws passed by Congress, which give the Commission its legal authority to do business under Title 18 – Conservation of Power and Water Resources, Parts 1 to 399 – of the Federal Code of Regulations (CFR).
FERC’s oversight role of natural gas
FERC’s natural gas responsibilities include regulation of:
- Pipeline, storage and liquefied natural gas facility construction;
- Interstate transportation of natural gas; and
- Facility abandonment.
- Oversees the construction and operation of pipeline facilities at United States points of entry for the import or export of natural gas;
- Issues certificates of public convenience and necessity to prospective companies providing energy services or constructing and operating interstate pipelines and storage facilities;
- Establishes rates for services.
Environmental protection procedures
With respect to natural gas projects, FERC safeguards the environment by:
- Disclosing, analyzing and minimizing impacts where it is feasible and reasonable to do so;
- Encouraging applicants to communicate with relevant federal and state natural resources agencies, Native American nations and state water quality agencies prior to submitting an application;
- Ensuring that all applicants perform the necessary studies to make an informed decision on the project;
- Issuing environmental assessments impact statement for comment on most projects;
- Requiring steps to reduce environmental impacts with any certificate issued;
- Visiting proposed project areas to determine the range of environmental issues requiring analysis and holding scoping meetings as appropriate.
For more information:
Before a pipeline company obtains authorization to construct an interstate transmission pipeline, the company must first file a detailed project plan with the FERC. This plan is formally called an application for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (Certificate Application). The Certificate Application is a comprehensive document that describes the proposed project, its need and potential environmental impacts.
When a pipeline company like Constitution Pipeline Company is ready to begin preparing its Certificate Application, it typically initiates what is known as the FERC pre-filing process. The pre-filing process is designed to encourage involvement by citizens, government entities and other interested parties during the design stage of a proposed project.
As part of this process, the project sponsor host a series of public workshops in the areas potentially affected by the proposal. Representatives from FERC normally participate in these meetings, as well. FERC may also hold public scoping meetings in the project area. Constitution Pipeline hosted a series of public workshops during the summer of 2012 and FERC followed with a series of scoping meetings conducted in the fall of 2012.
Once the pre-filing process begins, all documents and correspondence submitted to or issued by FERC regarding the project can be accessed by referencing the Docket Number on FERC’s website: http://elibrary.ferc.gov/.
Constitution Pipeline Company filed its Certificate Application for this project in the June of 2013. The project was assigned docket number CP13-499. To view a copy of the application, click here. Among other things, the Certificate Application contains a description of the new facilities, need for the project, detailed maps, schedules, and various environmental reports. This information details the various studies and analyses that have been conducted to determine what effect construction and operation could potentially have on the environment and community.
The environmental reports include an analysis of route alternatives, as well as an analysis of potential impacts to water resources, vegetation and wildlife, cultural resources, socioeconomics, soils, geology and land use. When the Certificate Application is filed and a Certificate Proceeding (CP) docket number is assigned, a copy of the application will be made available for viewing at local public libraries, as well as via FERC’s website by referencing the project’s docket number.
FERC prepares an environmental evaluation using information included in the Certificate Application, supplemental information that may be provided by the company upon request, information assembled by FERC staff, as well as information provided by state and federal agencies and the public. The evaluation will describe the proposed project and alternatives, as well as identify existing environmental conditions and potential impacts from the project.
The evaluation also indicates what mitigation measures, construction procedures, and routing could be included in the project to eliminate or reduce impacts. FERC’s environmental document is mailed to federal, state, and local government agencies; elected officials; environmental and public interest groups; Native American tribes; affected landowners; other interested parties and newspapers. FERC will establish a public comment period to provide ample time for the public to review the evaluation. Once the comment period ends, FERC will address any comments in the final Order.
If FERC determines that the project is environmentally acceptable – and is satisfied the project is in the public interest – it will issue an Order granting a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. On Dec. 2, 2014, FERC issued an Order granting a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for the Constitution Pipeline project. To view the Order, click here. FERC issued this document to signify that approval has been granted to build and operate the pipeline. The certificate details the conditions of the approval, including the final route FERC has authorized, and construction and mitigation measures that must be followed.