(Legislative Hearing on New Proposed Bill)
Rep. Upton (MI) and Rep. Green (TX) introduced a new bill called ‘‘North American Energy Infrastructure Act,’’ to the Energy and Power Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee. The committee will be holding a legislative hearing on Wed. Oct. 2, on this new bill, to revise the Presidential Permitting process for cross-border oil, natural gas pipelines, and electric transmission lines.
With respect to cross-border oil pipelines, the bill would do several things. It would shift the authority for issuing approval of new oil pipelines from the State Dept. to the Commerce Dept., and the Secretary would be required to approve a project unless it is not in the national security interests of the U.S. The bill would also exempt this decision from NEPA. Finally, the bill would exempt all expansions and reversals of previously permitted cross-border projects from any requirement to obtain a Presidential Permit. The Bill would also order all Natural Gas Pipelines to be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and Electrical Transmission lines to be approved by the Secretary of Energy.
The Bill states “It is the sense of Congress that the United States should establish a more uniform, transparent, and modern process for the construction and operation of oil or gas pipelines and electric transmission facilities for the import or export of oil, gas, or electricity to or from Canada and Mexico, in pursuit of a more secure North American energy market.” It also continues to state that an approval is required in 120 days upon receipt after it is determined to be a in the “National Interest”. There is no public comment periods mentioned or Environmental Impact Statements required in this process, so the uniform and transparent parts of this process would be in the hands of the Department of Commerce and the oil and pipeline companies.
Currently Enbridge is seeking a Presidential Permit to increase the capacity of the Alberta Clipper. The “Alberta Clipper,” line 67, is a 36 inch pipeline that currently carries 450,000 bpd of Tar Sands Diluted Bitumen from Hardisty Alberta to Superior Wisconsin. Enbridge is seeking permission to increase the amount to 880,000 bpd. The Alberta Clipper, was granted a Presidential Permit in 2009 and put into operation in 2010, but due to the large increase of dil-bit they are required to obtain a new Presidential Permit for the expansion. The proposed expansion project would not include constructing new pipeline, but would increase the pressure in the pipelines by adding 17 additional 6,000 hp pumps. In light of Enbridge’s poor record of spills, including the inlands worst spill in the US – over 1 million gallons of dil- bit in the Kalamazoo River, and 117 violations in their Canada pipelines, it is safe to say a Presidential Permit is still needed. Rep. Upton is from Michigan, his state has seen the destruction that a pipeline spill can create, yet he is still pushing for a lesser oversight.
While the State Department is not the ideal Department for handling Presidential Permits, the Commerce Department would be astronomical disaster. The Commerce Departments mission states “The U.S. Department of Commerce promotes job creation, economic growth, sustainable development and improved standards of living for all Americans by working in partnership with businesses, universities, communities and our nation’s workers”. The Department would be looking at the economic impact and the false jobs numbers that are always over estimated so it looks favorable. Yet the numbers don’t ever match the predictions. Marty Cobenais, IEN Pipeline Organizer, “This proposed bill will encourage the capitalistic way of America to invest in the risk and destruction of the environment and to promote corporate investments and capital gains, with no public input or environmental interest.”
Leech Lake Tribal Representative Leroy Fairbanks states “Any type of legislation that would allow industries such as pipelines and transmission lines to bypass the NEPA process would destroy any type of environmental protection the United States Government has afforded mother earth. It will be not only effect our generation but also our children and grandchildren that will we feel the effects of such anti-environmental legislation.” The elimination of the NEPA process would be of grave concern for Tribes along any pipeline or transmission line route. NEPA provides tribes an avenue to identify and aid in the preservation of cultural historical artifacts, sacred sites, or medicinal plants. The Alberta Clipper crosses through the Leech Lake and Fond-du-Lac reservations, but also 1855 Treaty Right lands for several other tribes from MN and WI. This new legislation also does NOT allow for the tribes to voice concerns or opposition to such projects in the future.
This proposed bill would affect Minnesota greatly as there are 6 oil pipelines that cross the border from Canada. “This legislation takes us backward. The environmental impact of any pipeline or transmission power line deserves more scrutiny, not less,” states MN Representative Frank Hornstein.
Please call the authors of this bill and tell them to withdraw this Bill, it is not in the “National Interest” as it takes away land owners right, violates tribal historical and treaty rights, does not allow the public to comment, and lets the government and industry to make all the decisions.
Rep. Fred Upton (202) 225-3761
Rep. Gene Green (202) 225-7508
Link to the draft Bill:
News Release from the Committee